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Cellphone usage cited as cause of crash that killed Badgers wrestler Eli Stickley

July 21, 2018

University of Wisconsin wrestler Eli Stickley was showing his girlfriend a video on his cellphone just before the automobile crash that killed him, according to a police report.

The report, released Thursday by the Illinois State Police in response to an open records request, listed cellphone usage as the primary cause of the July 5 crash on Interstate 74 in Henry County, Illinois, about 35 miles southeast of Davenport, Iowa.

Stickley was driving a 2004 Nissan Titan pickup truck westbound at 8:19 p.m. when he drove off the roadway into the right-side ditch, according to the report. The car turned left to re-enter the road, where it flipped multiple times.

Stickley, 21, was pronounced dead at Illini Hospital later that night. His passenger, Briana Cleveland, was hospitalized.

Cleveland, 22, of Rosemont, Minnesota, was Stickley’s girlfriend according to an obituary and was released from the hospital on July 11, UW reported. She is an athletic trainer for the Badgers who graduated in May, according to the school.

Cleveland told police that Stickley was showing her a video while he was driving, the report said.

Both Stickley and Cleveland were wearing seat belts but air bags did not deploy in the crash, according to police.

Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson said Stickley died from a traumatic head injury and no autopsy was performed.

Gustafson said toxicology tests were positive only for caffeine in Stickley’s system.

He said Stickley and Cleveland were in the last of three cars in a group driving to Iowa City for an engagement party for Stickley’s twin sister, Moriah. Stickley’s parents were in other vehicles.

From Urbana, Ohio, Stickley was about to enter his fourth season with the Badgers after a high school career that included a state championship.

Wrestling at 141 pounds in 2017-18, he automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing sixth at the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Stickley had a 21-14 record last season, his second in competition for UW after a redshirt first year.

His family has a long history with Badgers wrestling. Stickley’s uncle, Jim Jordan, won NCAA championships in 1985 and 1986 and was a three-time All-American. He now represents Ohio’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Another uncle, Jeff Jordan, wrestled for UW from 1983 to 1986.

Stickley’s cousin, Isaac Jordan, competed for UW from 2012 to 2017.

Gustafson said Stickley was a tissue donor.

“He saved multiple, multiple lives with his gift of donation,” Gustafson said.

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