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November 06, 2008 4:27 am

Trapper wrestling season begins Saturday

Written by Tribune Staff

Tournament slated to start at 9 a.m.

Northwest College's wrestling team will embark on its 2008-09 slate Saturday with its annual NWC Open at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell.

According to NWC head coach and athletic director Jim Zeigler, this year's field of competitors should once again provide a full day of top-notch wrestling action. At least five teams will have full squads at the event, including the University of Wyoming, which is under the direction of first-year Cowboy head coach Mark Branch. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

“This will be the first time they've brought a full squad here,” said Zeigler. “It's a big deal for us, and we're excited to have them here.”

Zeigler noted that Eric Coxbill, a former Trapper, is among the wrestlers on the Cowboys' roster. Now a senior, Coxbill wrestled two years at NWC before joining the team at UW. Last year, he led the Cowboys in victories with 26 while wrestling in the 165-pound weight class. Coxbill, from Wright, finished the year with a 26-14 mark and finished second in the West Regional. He also was named Third Team All-MWC.

In addition to NWC and UW, other full squads expected at the event are Montana State University-Northern, the University of Great Falls and Western Wyoming. Zeigler also said wrestlers from the University of Northern Colorado, Utah Valley University, Idaho State University and the University of Regina are slated to compete.

As for the Trappers, they will enter the season opener with a large group of freshmen and only a handful of returners from last season's team. Among the key returners are All-American Anthony Varnell (141) and national qualifier Mason Peebles (165). Varnell had knee surgery during the offseason, but Zeigler said the young standout has been strong in practice sessions. Also back are sophomores Josh Clark (174/184) of Ashton, Idaho, and Luis Carranza (133) of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The freshman class for the Trappers, which boasts 17 wrestlers, should be strong, Zeigler said. Among the top recruits expected to make an impact this season is Powell High School graduate Mak Jones (197). Jones capped his career by winning back-to-back state titles at 189, and helped the Panthers to the team title during the 2008-09 season.

“We have high expectations for Mak,” Zeigler said. “He's a hard-nosed guy, and if he can stay healthy, he'll have a chance to be in competition for All-American honors.”

Jones, however, isn't the only freshman on the squad with multiple state titles to his credit. Jeff Wood (125/133), of Gillette, is a four-time state champion. Saul Guerrero (133) of Ft. Lupton, Colo., and Tyler Jones (149) of Ashton, Idaho, joined the program after having won three state titles each. Landon Harris (285) of Rexburg, Idaho, and Briston Brenton (149) of Casper, and Jesse Amos (174) of Anchorage, Alaska, each won two state titles in high school. Tyler Jones and Harris, also earned All-American honors in high school.

One-time state champions for NWC include Dustin Baldwin (184) of Spokane, Wash., McCade Ford (141) of Payson, Utah, William Larson (125) of Thermopolis, and Corey Woodruff (157) of Saginaw, Mich.

“We've got quite a crew of freshmen,” Zeigler said. “It's a good group, and we're looking forward to seeing what they can do.”

Other freshmen on this year's roster include Tyrell Wright (174) of Coalville, Utah, Matt Chandler (141) of St. Louis, Mo., Judd Brown (285) of Newberg, Ore., Michael Ausdol (133) of Cheyenne, Eddie Whiting (125) of Cowley, and Jonathan Tiernan (285) of Delray Beach, Fla.

“I think we'll have a nationally competitive team that will be in the mix,” Zeigler said. “I'm not sure this is a group that can be in a national title hunt, but a top-6 finish is possible. That's a lofty goal with so many freshmen. It they work hard, and if we can stay healthy, we've got a chance to have a good year.”