Story by Alex Agueros, for The Muleskinner—
After placing third at the NCAA-II Super Region II Tournament in Ohio, sophomore Eric Mateo qualified for the NCAA-II National Championships.
As the lone Central representative, Mateo said he feels he’s peaking at the right time to make a run at a national championship. Head coach Justin Ensign said he shares this opinion.
“He’s come on strong in the last month or so,” Ensign said. “We’ve focused a lot on keeping that going. He’s only a sophomore, but there is no reason to not get it done this season.”
Wrestling at 144, Mateo went 21-19 this season, with a key victory over Central Oklahoma’s Trison Graham in the regional. The win last week ensured his spot in nationals.
“The goal going into the tournament is to be a national champ,” Mateo said. “If I wrestle my style and control the match, I don’t think there’s anyone who can beat me.”
It is Mateo’s first trip to nationals, but he and Ensign said they are more excited than intimidated.
“The atmosphere with the festival will be exciting,” Ensign said. “At this point you’re wrestling the best of the best, so you expect to go out there and see a good battle.”
For his first trip, Mateo has turned to his coaches for advice.
“I’ve talked to coach McDonald and the rest of our coaches,” Mateo said. “All of our coaches have been through this before and are helping me.”
Before arriving in Birmingham, Ala., Mateo has seen a small sample of film, heard a few comments about his opponent from coaches and knows who he is matched up against. Beyond that, Mateo is focused on himself, and continuing his recent momentum.
“I feel like I’m peaking at the right time by getting hot in the playoffs,” Mateo said. “At this point it’s all about technique and being ready to wrestle.”
Mateo takes on Justin Kieffer of Indianapolis for his first match Friday.