Citadel wrestler Ugi Khishignyam captured the hearts of Bulldog fans last season, when he and Odie Delaney became just the second and third All-Americans in school history.
Khishignyam, a native of Mongolia, finished third in the 141-pound weight class at the NCAA Wrestling Championships last March, the best finish ever for a Citadel wrestler. His big smile and sunny outlook were easy to like.
“It’s tough competition out here, so I learned a lot of things and I have a lot of things to work on,” Khishignyam told me after the NCAA Championships. “But I will do my best next year to try and achieve my goal of becoming an NCAA champion.”
But it looks like Ugi won’t get that chance. He is “currently ineligible” to wrestle this season, coach Rob Hjerling told me Monday, and odds don’t look good that that will change.
Citadel athletic director Larry Leckonby told me that Ugi had been out of high school for five years when he came to The Citadel, and that he had wrestled in Mongolia in the interim. When Ugi came to The Citadel, the NCAA informed him at that time that he would have to sit out a year (2011-12) and would have one year to wrestle (2012-13).
T.R. Foley, who writes about college wrestling on the website InterMat, said, “This is yet another case of the NCAA being selectively harsh about their eligibility requirements and their absolutely ridiculous posturing about ‘amateurism.’”
But Leckonby said there are currently no grounds for an appeal, and said that since Ugi arrived at The Citadel two years ago, Bulldog coaches have not been able to find grounds for appeal.
Meanwhile, Ugi is going to class and working out with the team, Hjerling said. He’s still listed on the Bulldogs’ roster, but did not participate in last weekend’s Blue-White Wrestle-Offs and was not included in the Southern Conference’s preseason all-SoCon squad (Citadel wrestlers Matt Frisch and Turtogtokh Luvsandorj made the team).
This situation is not a surprise — both The Citadel and Ugi knew he’d been granted just one year of eligibility by the NCAA — but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.