Two-time NCAA qualifier Nikko Reyes will head west of the Mississippi River to continue his collegiate wrestling career.
The California product wrestled the past two seasons for coach Jim Heffernan and the Illinois Fighting Illini, and will cap his carer at the University of Northern Colorado after he gave his verbal commitment to coach Troy Nickerson.
Reyes went 47-26 during two seasons with the Illini. He went 3-3 at nationals overall, including an upset win over No. 9-seeded Ryan Loder of Norther Iowa in his first trip to nationals.
Here are Reyes' thoughts on the decision from an interview with flowrestling.com:
"The decision to leave Illinois wasn't an easy one, it's a program that's headed in the right direction. At the end of the day, I just wanted to utilize my last two years of eligibility and achieve the goals I've had since I was a kid. I took a few recruiting trips this summer and really admired the team unity Northern Colorado had. The coaches there are great and are all on the same page as me and really believe I can win a national title at either weight I chose to wrestle at (174/184). This team up and down the lineup is really going to open some eyes this next season."
With Reyes leaving the program and Jackson Morse's (165) graduating, there are now two spots to fill in the Illini's lineup at upper weights. The Illini could turn to Bill Barbour (Jr. 165), Brandon Gilligan (Fr. 165), Danny Hicks (R-Fr. 174), Mike Kozyra (Fr. 165), Matt Nora (R-Jr. 165) or Emery Parker (Fr. 174).
Incoming freshman, Carver James and Xavier Montalvo both won Illinois state titles this past season at 170 pounds, but James as indicated he will redshirt this season. The three-time state champion Montalvo has stated he will try to make the lineup at 165 or 174.