Nine-year wrestling coaching veteran Ryan Ludwig, who has spent the past six years as the assistant and then associate head coach at Northern Illinois, has been named the 17th head coach of the Northern Illinois University wrestling program.
“Ryan’s experience working under longtime NIU head coach Dave Grant over the last six years has given him a thorough understanding of Huskie wrestling and the mission of NIU Athletics,” said Jeff Compher, NIU associate vice president and director of Athletics. “He comes highly recommended by Coach Grant, and has shown the ability to recruit, coach and lead during his time here.
“I feel he will take the Northern Illinois wrestling program to the next level, and compete not only for Mid-American Conference championships, but on the national stage as well.”
Ludwig, who came to NIU in 2005, has spent the past six seasons on Grant’s staff, serving as associate head coach for the last two years. He has played a key role in training 15 NCAA qualifiers, seven Mid-American Conference champions, most recently 2011 MAC Champion Brad Dieckhaus at 184 pounds, and one Midlands Tournament champion.
“I’m extremely excited to move into this next phase of Huskie Wrestling,” Ludwig said. “I want to thank the NIU administration, especially Jeff (Compher) and Senior Associate Athletic Director Christian (Spears) for their support throughout the process.
“We have a fantastic group of returners and I’m really excited about the recruiting class coming in. I believe in this program and NIU. I am honored to usher in this new era for Northern Illinois Wrestling. I look forward to the pursuit of our goals within the MAC and nationally.”
A native of Chelsea, Mich., Ludwig has been a driving force in bringing top talent to NIU. Year in and year out, Northern Illinois’ recruiting classes have been ranked among the best in the nation. The 2007 recruiting class was rated as high as 20th nationally, while the 2008 class boasted an outstanding blend of in-state and national talent featuring six high school All-Americans, 10 state champions and one Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner.
His initial recruiting effort brought athletes with outstanding credentials to DeKalb as well. The 2006 recruiting class included four high school All-Americans. In 2007, the newcomers recruited by the coaching staff combined for six state titles, and included four All-Americans.
Recruiting will remain a major point of emphasis under Ludwig. He plans on building on Northern Illinois’ national recruiting footprint and feels the addition of the NIU Wrestling Room has continued to enhance that footprint.
“We’ve taken a national approach to recruiting,” Ludwig said. “Facility development has been huge here. The wrestling room we received a few years ago has been a significant element in recruiting, along with the completion of the Yordon Center.
“We start recruiting in the state of Illinois. There’s fantastic wrestling here. Then you have to reach out and get national-level recruits as well. We have unbelievable wrestling here in the Midwest.”
Ludwig came to Northern Illinois after two seasons as an assistant at Minnesota State University-Mankato. While coaching the Mavericks, Ludwig helped guide the team to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division II Championships. He also helped produce and train eight All-Americans at MSU-Mankato.
Prior to his work with the Mavericks, Ludwig served as an assistant wrestling coach for his alma mater, the University of Findlay, where he coached seven All-Americans and a national champion in 2002-03.
As a wrestler, Ludwig was a three-time NAIA All-American and a national finalist at 157 pounds. Elected a captain by his teammates, he was also voted Most Valuable Wrestler when the Roughnecks were NAIA national runners-up in 1999. Ludwig ranks third on Findlay’s all-time win list with over 100 career victories. In high school, Ludwig was a Michigan state champion at 142 pounds in 1995.
Ludwig earned a bachelor of arts degree in 2000 from Findlay as a double major in psychology and criminal justice.
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.