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November 13, 2008 3:11 am

Trapper wrestling season begins

Written by Tribune Staff

Harris among NWC top placers

A trio of Northwest College wrestlers notched placing efforts as the Trappers officially kicked off the 2008-09 season waith the annual NWC Open last Saturday at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell.

Leading the charge for the Trappers was freshman and heavyweight entry Landon Harris, who cruised to a 4-0 record during the event. Harris opened with decisions over the University of Great Falls' Garrett Johnson and Matt Schnittgen. He then pinned Evan Mattingly, an unattached wrestler from Montana State University-Northern, and defeated UGF's Brad Fraser by an 11-5 score in the championship bout.

Others placing for the Trappers were freshmen Saul Guerrero (133) and Mak Jones (197). Guerrero went 2-1 Saturday. His first victory, an 11-2 major decision, came against DJ Skelton, an unattached wrestler from MSU-Northern. He followed with a 6-0 decision over another unattached wrestler, UGF's Ryan Leonard, to earn a spot in the title bout against MSU-Northern's Colt Hager. Hager defeated Guerrero 4-3 to claim the title at 133.

Jones, a 2008 graduate of Powell High School, began his Trapper wrestling career in style by finishing fourth in the 197-pound weight class. In his first bout of the day, Jones claimed a 12-4 victory over Western Wyoming Community College's Mike Malone. He followed with a 6-2 decision over UGF's Will Wine before suffering an 8-3 loss to the University of Wyoming's Alfonso Hernandez. Hernandez went on to win the weight class.

Jones, following his first loss, defeated UGF's Jimmy Martin 8-1. That set up a bout for third place with UGF's Scott Lucas, and Lucas escaped with an 8-6 decision.

“Those guys who placed wrestled really well,” said NWC head coach Jim Zeigler. “As a team, I think the guys did a good job Saturday, particularly after their first matches. We've got a lot of young guys, but once they got past those first matches, they settled in and did a solid job. It was a good way for us to start the season.”

Zeigler also said McCade Ford (141), Corey Woodruff (157) and Luis Carranza (133) enjoyed solid performances and each came one bout short of placing.

Also among the highlights of the tournament was the participation of the University of Wyoming's squad. The majority of the Cowboys' team made the trip to Powell, and UW walked away with seven champions, four runner-up spots, three third-place finishers and two fourth-place efforts during Mark Branch's debut as head coach.

“It was a busy day and the guys wrestled a lot of matches,” Branch said. “That is what we wanted. It was good for us as a coaching staff to evaluate, and it was good for the guys to get a feel for where they are at.

“Overall I was pleased. Our team actually matched up against each other quite a bit and there were a lot of good things out there, but there are also plenty of things we need to improve on.”

Among UW's first-place finishers was senior Eric Coxbill at 165. Coxbill, a former NWC wrestler from Wright, is in his second season with the Cowboys. Last year he led UW in victories with 26 and finished second in the West Regional Tournament.

“It was a big deal for them to be here,” Zeigler said. “They brought quite a few fans. In fact, we had a lot more visiting fans than we've ever had for this tournament. We had a big crowd all day long, and we got a lot of support from the wrestling community here in Powell.”

Though an attendance count was not made Saturday, Zeigler said this year's NWC Open clearly was a record-setter.

“The turnout for this one was far better than anything we've seen before,” Zeigler said. “With UW taking part in it, it was almost like we had two home teams, and that really helped us bring in more people.”

• Up next: The Trappers will be in action again tonight (Thursday) at Hank Cabre Gymnasium against MSU-Northern. Start time for the event is slated for 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Trappers will be in Laramie for UW's Cowboy Open.