Eichenauer Makes Most Of Return To OCU Wrestling Team
OKLAHOMA CITY - Mitchell Eichenauer didn't want to continue living the same way.
After Eichenauer spent two and a half years away from the Oklahoma City University wrestling program, Eichenauer returned to Archie Randall's office in the summer of 2011, wanting his spot back on the team. Randall allowed Eichenauer back into the fold.
Eichenauer enters the NAIA Championships on March 1-2 in Des Moines, Iowa, aiming to add to an already shiny resume that includes four-time national qualifier, two-time all-American and 2008 national runner-up at 184 pounds.
"I got out into the world a little bit," Eichenauer said. "I was working and kind of struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. I wasn't happy with myself. I ran into Coach Randall somewhere, and he talked about me coming back. I thought about it. He thought it would be the best decision for me. I haven't regretted a minute of it."
Eichenauer had high hopes coming off that national runner-up finish as a sophomore. Eichenauer entered the 2008-09 season as the No. 1 184-pounder in the NAIA. Randall described him as "a complete wrestler able to wrestle on his feet, on top or on bottom" in the preseason.
He was off the Stars wrestling team before the season started. Eichenauer went to other schools, but failed to get back onto the mat, let alone add to his success wrestling.
"Mitchell was an all-American, national runner-up and basically got a little bit unfocused," Randall said. "He went to a couple of other schools, and then one summer, he showed up here and said he wanted to come back and asked if I would give him a chance. He's done a great job since then."
Eichenauer has recaptured his old wrestling form. As a 25-year-old senior, he has gone 18-11 with six falls while being ranked fourth nationally. He won his second consecutive NAIA Central Qualifying Group championship Feb. 16 in Baldwin City, Kan. Eichenauer is one of only four four-time national qualifiers ever in OCU's wrestling program.
Eichenauer's performance came after a junior season where he went 25-12 with nine pins.
"He qualified last year at 197," Randall said. "He's back down to 184 and won the regional. He's had a really good season. He pinned the defending national champion a couple of weeks ago. He's in good position at the national tournament to make that run again."
Eichenauer said that he has struggled wrestling this season, but in the qualifying group tournament, "Everything just clicked together on Saturday. I had a good tournament. I came to wrestle on Saturday."
He has confidence that this trip to the national tournament could be as fruitful as his sophomore season.
"I've been wrestling all my life," Eichenauer said. "I've always been able to turn it on at the end. That year I made the national finals run, I came ready to wrestle and had a tournament. I was one of the best kids in the country on that day. I fell short by a point. Stuff happens."
Off the mat, Eichenauer is set to graduate this summer with a kinesiology degree from the university. Eichenauer wants to enter coaching once he has that degree.
"I got to go in there and wrestle like I did in 2008," Eichenauer said. "It's my last go-around. I'm done competing after this. I'm going to give it one last shot. I've been wrestling for 20 years. One more tournament to go. I would like to go into coaching, try to get into coaching high school or college, see where it goes after this year."
Wherever he goes, Eichenauer will be better prepared to handle life away from school and the mat this time around.