The No. 1 Trappers went 30-33 overall in the home-opener, but head coach Jim Zeigler said he cares more about the quality of the wrestling and the progress his team makes than the win-loss record.
“I think we did a good job,” Zeigler said. “I don’t get too excited about tournaments in terms of wins and losses.”
The team treats the open, in which both school-affiliated and independent wrestlers can compete, as an exhibition of sorts. Trappers currently on the active roster as well as those who are red-shirting are able to face live competition and gain experience, while the coaches take it as an opportunity to learn about opponents and their team’s depth.
“It’s really an all-day opportunity to scout, look at your competitors a little bit and also to work on your conditioning,” Zeigler said. “Those open events are like a week’s worth of practice.”
Northwest went 5-1 against North Idaho, the No. 2 junior college team in the nation.
Zeigler said most of the NWC vs. NI matches were between younger wrestlers still looking to prove themselves.
“It certainly says a lot for our kids, our young guys, our redshirts,” the coach said. “We got some real potential there to work with. It’s encouraging.”
Zac Loveless, ranked No. 1 in the country at 141 pounds, was the tournament runner-up. The sophomore was bested only by University of Wyoming’s Cole Mendenhall in the championship bout. Mendenhall pinned Loveless in 2:09.
“We expect him to be able to compete when we’re wrestling the four-year schools,” Zeigler said. “The final match was disappointing because he was caught and pinned, but it’s a match we feel like we can win.”
Sophomore Diorian Coleman went 2-2 and advanced to the third-place match in the 165-pound bracket, but Zeigler chose to let Coleman rest for this week’s duals rather than wear himself out and risk injury.
“We walked away from a long day of wrestling in a big, brutal tournament, and we walked away unscathed,” Zeigler said.
Coleman, 18, lost to junior Dakota Friesth of UW.
“Get a little more age and little more experience on Diorian and he wins that match,” Zeigler said.
Sophomore Miles Nixon went 3-2 in the 184 pound class. Nixon was 1-1 in the championship bracket and 2-1 in consolations.
“Overall, I was pleased with what I saw from Miles,” Zeigler said.
Jeff McCormick, who won his bracket at the Cowboy Open in Laramie Nov. 2, went 2-2 Saturday.
The coach was especially happy with the performances he saw from a trio of freshmen.
Jonathan Wixom (2-2 record at 197 pounds), Jacob Beck (1-2 at 174 pounds) and Kaelen Loveless (2-2 at 157) all excelled in the open.
“I really liked what they did,” Zeigler said.
Wixom defeated Morgan Rider of UW in a 13-3 major decision, followed by a 4-1 decision of Montana State-Northern’s Garrett Demers. Wixom then lost consecutive matches to University of Wyoming’s Shane Woods (17-2 technical fall) and Brandon Tribble (3-0 decision).
Beck began to prove himself with his win (5-3 decision) against Luke Paine of UW.
“That was just a fantastic match,” Zeigler said. “Beck earned himself a starting spot this week with that victory.”
Redshirt freshman Felipe Contreras made a nice run in the 133-pound consolation bracket. Contreras, whom Zeigler called a hard worker, went 3-2.
“I’m really pleased with what he’s doing,” Zeigler said. “He’s a great team member.”
Northwest’s Cody Vichi and Brenden Turner did not compete in the open. Vichie, No. 3 in the nation at 125 pounds and Turner, Northwest’s top man at 133, rested for this week’s duals.
“Those matches take precedent over open tournaments,” Zeigler said.
The Trappers will travel for two one-on-one duals, beginning with Colorado Mesa University Wednesday in Vernal, Utah. The team will head to Rock Springs Thursday to compete against No. 15 Western Wyoming.
Look for the NWC wrestling season preview at www.powelltribune.com.