WHAT: NCAA Wrestling Championships
WHERE: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
FROM THE CITADEL: Ugi Khishignyam (141), Matt Frisch (149), Aaron Walker (157), Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (165), Marshall Haas (197).
TV: ESPN3; finals on ESPN
By now, Ugi and Turtog are used to it.
"People get confused all the time," says Turtog. "They don't know which one is Ugi and which one is me."
The confusion is understandable. Both Ugi Khishignyam (ka-SHING-um) and Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (loov-SAN-dorj) are accomplished wrestlers for The Citadel. Both are from the city of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, the Central Asian country of 2.9 million people that is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south.
But get them on the mat, says Citadel coach Rob Hjerling, and the differences between Ugi and Turtog become apparent.
"You see Turtog wrestle, he's intense and looks a little mean out there," said Hjerling. "Ugi can go out and do the same thing with a smile on his face. He has a pretty fun style to watch, and his personality is very gregarious. So they are received a little bit differently, but the end result is the same."
The preferred result this weekend is All-America status for both Mongolian wrestlers. Ugi and Turtog are two of five Citadel wrestlers to quality for the NCAA Championships, set for Thursday-Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Ugi will try to repeat as an All-American at 141 pounds, while Turtog is seeking his first All-America honor at 165 pounds.
Also in the NCAAs are Bulldogs Matt Frisch (149 pounds), Aaron Walker (157) and Marshall Haas (197). All matches can be viewed on ESPN3.com, and Saturday's finals will be televised by ESPN from 8-11 p.m.
The NCAA Championships will mark the final time in a Citadel uniform for Ugi and Turtog, who was recently named Southern Conference wrestler of the year for the second time.
"Having them at The Citadel has been great," said Hjerling, who was named SoCon coach of the year this season. "Their work ethic, their passion for the sport, the way the represented the school . It has shown the institution that it can work."
Ugi, who finished fourth at 141 pounds in last year's NCAAs to become the highest-placing wrestler in Citadel history, was ineligible for the first part of this season because of wrestling he had done in Mongolia before coming to the U.S.
Eventually, the NCAA ruled that college wrestling and traditional Mongolian wrestling are two different sports, and Ugi was eligible for the second half of the season. He compiled a 22-3 record, but the missed time cost him matches against ranked wrestlers, and he will enter the NCAAs unseeded. He will open against No. 3 seed Zain Retherford of Penn State (29-1).
"I worked out every day just like normal, but mentally it was hard," Ugi said. "I missed a lot of competition, and we had to send a lot of information to the NCAA. Sometimes I traveled with the team, but I had to stay separate from them, and that didn't feel so good."
After redshirting last season - "I was homesick and academically tired," he said - Turtog had a spectacular season. He was 35-6 overall, including a 6-4 mark against ranked wrestlers, and set a school record with 130 career wins. He's seeded 11th at 165 pounds.
Watching Ugi and heavyweight Odie Delaney earn All-America status last year has inspired him this season, Turtog said.
"This is the last week of my college career, so I want to do my best," he said. "Having Ugi and Odie last year, I got to see how All-Americans work. When you have an All-American in the wrestling room, it's different. I feel like I can do it, too."
Both Ugi and Turtog have aspirations of wrestling for Mongolia in the future, perhaps in the Olympics or other international competitions. Both will have to secure jobs and places to train to make that happen.
"With what I learned at The Citadel, I think I can go back home to Mongolia and help my country," Turtog said.
Taking an All-America award back to Mongolia would be nice, too.
"It's cool to have two Mongolians in the NCAAs," Ugi said. "We'll try to make All-America together."
Citadel wrestler Ugi Khishignyam (on top) was an All-American last year.×
The Citadelís Rob Hjerling was named SoCon wrestling coach of the year (Russ Pace/The Citadel)×
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