Eli Stickley, a former Graham standout wrestler and a state champion in 2014, was killed in an automobile crash Thursday night in Illinois.
Stickley, 21, was driving on Interstate 74 when his vehicle exited the right side of the roadway. The vehicle overcorrected and rolled across the roadway, coming to rest in the passing lane.
Both Stickley and an unidentified passenger were transported to Illini Hospital in Silvis, where Stickley was pronounced dead. Stickley leaves behind his parents, Todd and Hope Stickley, of rural Urbana, as well as twin sister Moriah.
Jeff Jordan coached Eli at Graham High School and helped him win an OHSAA state championship at 120 pounds in 2014 as a junior. In his senior year, Stickley was third.
Last season for the University of Wisconsin, he qualified for the NCAA championships after finishing sixth in the Big Ten at 141 pounds.
“He was a captain his junior and senior year, not on his wrestling credentials, but on his credentials off the mat. His hard work and work ethic, being such a great kid. He led by example. He was the most coachable kid I think I’ve ever had at Graham High School. He would do whatever I asked,” Jordan said. “The Graham wrestling community lost a great wrestler, the Graham community lost a great kid, the wrestling world lost a great human being. It’s just so tragic. What a great young man. He had life figured out. He was so mature. You knew he was going to make it, and there’s just no answer for why this happened.
“It’s very, very tough. Eli stopped over at the wrestling camp on Monday and gave me a big hug. He said ‘Coach, I haven’t seen you in a while, just wanted to stop by and give you a hug and tell you I love you.’ I told him I loved him, gave him a hug, met his girlfriend.”
Coach Jordan said Stickley was in the area celebrating the upcoming marriage of Jeff’s son, Micah. The gathering included several Graham wrestlers, including Jeff’s other sons, Bo and Rocky, as well as Garrett Jordan and Hayden Bronne, for a groomsmen party in Cincinnati.
“The great thing is it was like old times with Bo, Mick, Rock and Eli. They always hung out together growing up, and then once they went to college they kinda got away, since they’re at different colleges. But they all got back together for three days,” Jordan said.
Jordan also said Stickley was on his way back to Wisconsin to visit his sister and had plans to visit former teammate Alex Marinelli when the accident occurred.
A statement from the University of Wisconsin Athletics program read:
“Our hearts are heavy today. The entire Badger Athletics family extends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of junior Eli Stickley, a student-athlete with our wrestling team, who passed away last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with Eli’s family, friends, teammates and coaches.”
The university had a banner commemorating Stickley at the top of the athletics web page on Friday.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.