Illinois Fighting Illini wrestler Francis Edelen was struck and killed by a moving vehicle near Rantoul on Wednesday night, according to WCIA’s Emily Braun:
UPDATE: ISP says the pedestrian killed after being struck by a car near Rantoul last night was on the Illini wrestling team, 21-year-old Francis Edelen.— Emily Braun (@WCIA3Emily) March 22, 2018
This was an update to a report by WCIA’s Christie Battista, who relayed information from Police stating that Edelen was on foot on I-57 after being involved in a car crash when another car fatally struck him.
JUST IN: the man killed on I-57 last night was a UI wrestler Police say he was involved in a crash got out and was hit by another car @WCIA3— Christie Battista (@CBattistaWCIA) March 22, 2018
According to his FightingIllini.com profile, Edelen was a redshirt sophomore majoring in business who wrestled at the 141 lb weight class and started as a true freshman, going 2-18. He improved to 6-8 last year with four pins, but redshirted the 2017-18 campaign.
The Champaign Room will provide updates to this story as they become available.
UPDATE (9:25 AM): Brian Moline of WILL confirmed that the driver fled the scene and that the Illinois State Police are searching for the vehicle involved in this hit-and-run fatality:
More here from @ISPDistrict10. pic.twitter.com/PdWrFUpJrP— Brian Moline (@BMolineWILL) March 22, 2018
UPDATE (9:30AM): FightingIllini.com has released a statement about the incident, including comments from Illinois Wrestling coach Jim Heffernan and Athletic Director Josh Whitman.
“This is shocking news for our team and coaching staff as no words can truly reflect the emotions that we are going through at this time,” Illinois wrestling coach Jim Heffernan said. “Francis was a productive member of our program. We are extremely saddened by this news. We just released this news to our team, so the healing process after the loss of a teammate and friend has just begun.”
“Our hearts are broken by the news of Francis Edelen’s passing,” Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said. “Losing someone so early in his life when he has so much yet to experience and to give is a tragedy of the highest order. Our thoughts are with Francis’ family and friends. We will come together and draw strength from each other as an Illini family during this difficult time.”
Personally, my very favorite group of athletes are collegiate wrestlers. It takes a special breed to commit mind, body and soul to the ultimate sport to the level that they do, and anyone who competes at this level is worthy of being called a winner. Our condolences go out to Francis’ family, friends, teammates and the entire collegiate wrestling community.