Terrazas reflects on time at Illinois before senior night

When Eric Terrazas walks off the mat Friday night, he will have wrestled with his last opponent in Huff Hall.

In 2008, Terrazas was leaving behind a successful high school career that featured his being captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Wheaton North. In coming to Illinois, he was starting over on a new team at the next level without a scholarship.

While that may sound familiar, the path Terrazas took to becoming a ranked wrestler and captain of the Illinois wrestling team was anything but.

He had offers to play football at small schools and possessed a scholarship to wrestle at The Citadel — a Division I wrestling program in South Carolina — but having the opportunity to walk on at Illinois was something he wasn’t going to pass up.

“At the end of the day, I sat down and looked at the schools that I could go to for football and looked at the schools I could go to for wrestling, and Illinois stood out as the best option for me,” Terrazas said.

“Competing at the Division I level in the Big Ten for wrestling is definitely cream of the crop. So it kind of stood out, and obviously Illinois is a great academic school as well, so (it) just kind of made sense.”

In four years, he’s seen that decision pay off.

Illinois suffered injuries at 149 pounds during his freshman season, so Terrazas cracked the starting lineup on Dec. 13, 2008. He’s remained there ever since. It was an up and down year, but it allowed him to get his feet wet.

After breaking his foot as a sophomore, he responded with his first national ranking, defeating Southern Illinois-Edwardsville’s Kyle Lowman on Jan. 8, 2010. The foot injury was the first he ever suffered, but he made huge strides once returning from it.

Fast forward to Friday against Wisconsin, and he’s staring down his last match at home for senior night, leaving behind a legacy that has left a mark not only at Illinois, but in the mind of head coach Jim Heffernan.

“In terms of quality people, over the 24 years I’ve been coaching and the 20 years I’ve been at Illinois, people don’t get much better than him,” Heffernan said. “Truthfully, they just don’t.”

“He’s progressed every year,” he added. “He’s made adjustments, he’s improved, he’s worked really hard; but the biggest thing with him is he’s just a hell of a kid. So it’s not hard for us to want to work with him, want to help him and want to see him succeed.”

Embracing the vision of Christianity, Terrazas is actively involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and alternates with fellow captain B.J. Futrell conducting weekly Bible studies with the team.

Having an impact on children is the long-term goal Terrazas has in mind. Once his wrestling career is over, he plans on striving for more with athletics, but with a different sport: football.

Upon completing an internship with FCA this coming summer, the sport management major wants to get a graduate assistantship somewhere for football or go into coaching, with hopes of becoming a head coach at the Division-I level someday.

Working together on and off the mat and uniting under faith has allowed Terrazas to influence his All-American teammate.

“He’s got so much ahead of him,” Futrell said. “There’s gonna be a lot of big things that he’s going to be involved in because I believe that God has made a plan for his life and the impact that he’s going to be able to have over a lot of different people and kids.”