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January 29, 2009 3:49 am

Apodaca Duals to feature seven ranked teams

Written by Tribune Staff

Trappers ready to begin stretch run

The Northwest College Trappers will host the 11th annual Apodaca Dual Showdown Friday and Saturday at Hank Cabre Gymnasium, and this year's collection of squads promises to provide plenty of high-caliber competition.

Each of the teams lined up for this week's event boasts a lofty national ranking.

Northwest College will carry a No. 13 ranking into the event. The remainder of the seven-team field will consist of No. 2 North Idaho College, No. 8 Southwest Oregon Community College, No. 10 Clackamas Community College and No. 12 Western Wyoming College. Also included in the field are the two teams tied for the fifth spot in the national rankings,

Labette Community College and North Iowa Area Community College. Combined, the seven teams have 29 wrestlers who boast spots in the NJCAA's individual rankings.

“We've got teams coming here from as far away as Kansas and from the West Coast,” said Jim Zeigler, NWC athletic director and head coach. “That says a lot about how people view this event. It's quite a commitment to come here in January, but coaches have heard through word of mouth over the years that this is a first-class event, and they want their teams to be a part of it.”

A major lure of the Apodaca Dual Showdown centers around what it represents. The event was created by Zeigler as a way to honor the memory of former Trapper wrestler Christopher Brooks Apodaca, who died in a one-vehicle accident in 1998.

Apodaca was a native of Riverton and was a student at NWC for three years. As an NWC wrestler, he was a two-year varsity wrestler and a national qualifier. Apodaca also served as a team captain for the 1997-98 team. According to Zeigler, Apodaca is best remembered for his quiet leadership qualities and competitive spirit. The coach also said Apodaca's character and work ethic on and off the mat motivated all who knew him.

Zeigler said during the practices leading up to the annual showdown, he makes a point of sharing the qualities Apodaca displayed during his life. By doing that, Zeigler said the wrestlers develop a better understanding of the young man whose life was tragically cut short.

“One of the things we want to do is implant his spirit in our wrestlers,” Zeigler said. “Last Saturday, I started thinking about Brooks and what I want these young men to know and understand about him. Each year and during the week leading up to the Apodaca Duals, we talk about Brooks a lot. By doing that, our guys are able to see him as not only a former NWC wrestler, but as one of their teammates.”

As part of the Apodaca Dual Showdown, Zeigler picks one of his wrestlers to be the recipient of the Christopher Brooks Apodaca Memorial Award for Leadership and Excellence. That honor, which is one of the most prestigious athletic awards offered at NWC, is given to the wrestler who best exemplifies Apodaca's qualities.

“We look for someone that everyone on the team can count on,” Zeigler said. “When it comes to this award, we look for a guy that gives his best effort in everything he does. He's the person a guy can go to for help with homework or something to do with wrestling. The winner of this award is someone who pushes his teammates to get better and does everything he can to make those around him better.”

The most recent Apodaca Award winner is Darren Lewis, who came to NWC from Fallon, Nev. Lewis was a key part of the Trapper wrestling squad during his time with the Trappers, and he graduated from NWC last May. Lewis, who earned Academic All-American honors while at Northwest College, currently is attending the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is majoring in physical education. He and his wife, Amber, recently celebrated the birth of a baby boy named Jayson.

On Friday night and prior to the start of the 8 p.m. matchups, Zeigler said the 2009 winner of the award will be announced during a short ceremony at NWC's Hank Cabre Gymnasium.

Other Apodaca Award winners include Travis Carter (1999), Rad Martinez (2000), Trevor Murray (2001), Loren Hutchins (2002), Bobby Singleton (2003), Tyler Rhodes (2004), Kade Caturia (2005), Chris Riding (2006) and Nick DeWitt (2007).

“We're really looking forward to getting started,” Zeigler said. “We've got a strong lineup of teams, and there will be a lot of good matchups Friday and Saturday. A lot of the wrestlers that will be here for this event are ranked, and there are a lot who could earn a spot in the rankings with a good showing this weekend.”

Zeigler said a number of his wrestlers, including freshmen McCade Ford, Corey Woodruff and Saul Guerrero, are among those looking to earn a national ranking with their performances Friday and Saturday.

“Those guys are right there, and they want to be ranked,” Zeigler said. “With good showings this week, they've got good shots at making that happen.”

Currently, NWC has two wrestlers who have cracked the individual standings. Freshman heavyweight Landon Harris checks in at No. 3 and boasts the best record for the Trappers. He will enter the upcoming event with a 23-1 mark.

“Landon has done really well, and he's still improving,” Zeigler said. “He's one of those guys who is always working to get better, and we see that from him every time he steps on the mat.”

Anthony Varnell, a sophomore, is NWC's other ranked wrestler. He occupies the No. 6 spot in the rankings for 149-pound entries.

“This is a big event for us,” Zeigler said. “This is the time of year we're preparing for our guys to peak as far as their performance levels. Upon completion of the Apodaca Duals, we like to think that our guys are stronger and ready to finish the season with their best efforts.”

Apodaca Dual Showdown Schedule

Friday, Jan. 30

• Labette vs. Western Wyoming, 4 p.m.
• Clackamas vs. North Iowa Area CC, 4 p.m.
• NWC vs. Southwest Oregon, 6 p.m.
• North Idaho vs. Labette, 6 p.m.
• NWC vs. Clackamas, 8 p.m.
• North Iowa Area CC vs. Western Wyoming, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 31

• North Idaho vs. North Iowa Area CC, 10 a.m.
• Southwest Oregon vs. Labette, 10 a.m.
• North Iowa Area CC vs. Southwest Oregon, noon.
• Western Wyoming vs. Clackamas, noon.
• NWC vs. North Idaho, 2 p.m.
• Labette vs. Clackamas, 2 p.m.
• NWC vs. Labette, 4 p.m.
• Western Wyoming vs. North Idaho, 4 p.m.