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Ex-Illinois wrestler Daryl Thomas new volunteer assistant at Northern Illinois

Former University of Illinois wrestler Daryl Thomas has headed north to join the staff at Northern Illinois University
Former University of Illinois wrestler Daryl Thomas has headed north to join the staff at Northern Illinois University
Logo courtesy of Northern Illinois University, photo courtesy of University of Illinois, both used with permission

The former Fighting Illini is now a Huskie, as ex-University of Illinois wrestler Daryl Thomas is now a volunteer assistant coach at Northern Illinois University, the DeKalb-based school announced Thursday.

Thomas, a former 133-pounder at Illinois, will work with the Huskies' lighter weight classes, according to the NIU announcement. He joins a coaching staff which includes head coach Ryan Ludwig, and assistant coaches Dominick Moyer and John Helgerson.

Thomas was a two-time placer at the Big Ten conference championships, placing sixth at 133 in 2012 and 2013. He qualified for the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships as a senior. Thomas compiled a 53-47 record as a Fighting Illini wrestler.

A native of Edwardsville, Ill., Thomas was a three-time Illinois high school state championships qualifier, placing fourth at the 2006 Illinois Class AA state tournament for Edwardsville High School. After graduating from Illinois in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Thomas served last season as an assistant coach at his high school alma mater, where he helped the Edwardsville Tigers advance four wrestlers to the Illinois state championships. In addition, with Thomas on staff, Edwardsville High wrestling had a perfect 28-0 record for the 2013-14 season, winning the team title at the Granite City Regional as well as the Southwestern Conference crown.

Northern Illinois’ Ludwig is eager to welcome Thomas on board.

"Daryl is a great addition to this coaching staff," Ludwig said. "He rounds out the needs of our program in terms of having a lightweight coach. I've had the chance to build a relationship with Daryl through the years and I know that he is a fierce competitor. Furthermore, he is a fine model to those that he mentors and coaches. We are thrilled to have him on board here at NIU."

"I'm extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity," Thomas said. "I'm excited to get to work and help these guys reach their goals and be somebody they can lean on when they need to.

"I look be a guy who’s specific to those lightweight guys and who’s wrestled some of those weight classes. I look to bring an edge and confidence to these guys and instill belief in themselves that they can compete at a high level."

Northern Illinois University is located in DeKalb, Ill., about one hour west of downtown Chicago. The NIU Huskies wrestling program placed eighth in the team standings at the 2014 MAC (Mid-American Conference) championships.