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Wisconsin wrestler, Ohio native Eli Stickley killed in car crash

Eli Stickley (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

Eli Stickley, University of Wisconsin wrestler with wrestling roots at the famed St. Paris Graham High School in Ohio, was killed in a single-vehicle crash in western Illinois Thursday evening. Stickley was 21.

A 2004 Nissan Frontier, driven by Stickley, was headed westbound on I-74 just south of the Quad Cities Thursday at about 8:20 p.m. when it left the road near the Andover exit. Illinois State Police report that the vehicle left the roadway, travelled into the right-hand ditch, over-corrected and rolled across both westbound lanes of traffic. It came to rest on its passenger's side in the passing lane of I-74.

The driver, Elijah D. Stickley of Urbana, Ohio, and his passenger were transported to Illini Hospital in the Quad Cities where Stickley was pronounced dead, according to the Rock Island Argus-Dispatch. The condition of his passenger, who has not been identified, was not available Friday afternoon.

Stickley launched his collegiate wrestling career with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2015, competing unattached and taking a redshirt in his first season.


Wrestling at 141 pounds in 2017-18, Stickley compiled a 21-14 record. He automatically qualified for the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships by finishing sixth at the Big Ten Conference tournament.

"The world lost a really good kid," Badgers coach Chris Bono told the Wisconsin State Journal, the community newspaper serving Madison, home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus.

Bono, who took the helm of the UW mat program this past March, told the paper that, as he made his calls to inform team members of Stickley's death, he asked one wrestler if there were any teammates with whom Stickley was especially close that needed extra help in the aftermath.

"He said, 'Coach, I don't think there was one guy on the team that ever had one problem with this guy,'" Bono said. "That's the kind of kid he was."

Prior to coming to Wisconsin, Stickley wrestled at nationally-ranked Graham High School in tiny St. Paris in far western Ohio, where he won the 120-pound Division II state title in 2014 with a 50-3 record.

Stickley's family has a long history with Badgers wrestling. His uncle, Congressman Jim Jordan, won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1985 and 1986 while at Wisconsin. Another uncle, Jeff Jordan, wrestled for UW from 1983 to 1986.

Stickley's cousin, Isaac Jordan, competed for UW from 2012 to 2017.

Coach Bono said the team is away from campus for the Fourth of July holiday, but will return to Madison next week. "I think that's when it'll really hit home, when everybody's together," he said.

"Eli was great, man," Bono continued. "There was not one single thing you could say that was bad about this guy in the three months that I was with him. We just had camp a couple weeks ago. I got to spend 24 hours a day with him at camp, being in the dorms with him. He's a great, great, great person."

Services have yet to be announced.

The crash that killed Eli Stickley was not far from the location of a fatal wreck also on I-74 in western Illinois in Dec. 2017 which killed Gabe Tudor, 24, former heavyweight wrestler at St. Cloud State University, an NCAA Division II school in Minnesota. Tudor was on his way home to Peoria, Ill. from Minnesota.

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