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Apodaca Duals showcase tradition

NWC red-shirt freshman Hayden Heap puts his Western Wyoming opponent into a headlock Jan. 22 in Powell. NWC red-shirt freshman Hayden Heap puts his Western Wyoming opponent into a headlock Jan. 22 in Powell. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

The top three junior college wrestling teams in the nation will collide in Powell this weekend for the 16th annual Apodaca Showdown Duals.

The No. 2 Northwest Trappers will play host to No. 1 North Idaho, No. 3 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and No. 13 Iowa Western in what NWC head coach Jim Zeigler tabbed as Northwest’s “signature event.”

An awards presentation will begin at 6:45 p.m. Friday with team introductions to follow.

The wrestling action will begin at 7:30 p.m. with Northwest taking on Northeastern Oklahoma on mat 1 and North Idaho facing Iowa Western on mat 2.

Each team will wrestle two more duals starting at noon on Saturday. Northwest begins with Iowa Western while North Idaho takes on Northeastern Oklahoma.

The weekend culminates with a clash between Northwest and North Idaho, the top two teams in the country.

The Apodaca Duals were founded by the college in 1999, one year after the tragic death of Trapper wrestler Christopher Brooks Apodaca in an automobile accident.

“I felt like we needed to have some memorial event for him,” Zeigler said. “We’re celebrating Brooks Apodaca and his success here. It’s definitely an emotional week.”

Through the duals, Northwest has carried on Apodaca’s memory as well as created a premier event that routinely features the best the country has to offer.

“It’s maintained for 16 straight years, and it’s our goal to attract the very best competition possible,” Zeigler said.

The coach said the event benefits the entire NWC community, including the wrestling program, in both the long and short term.

Zeigler said the duals serve as a great representation of the wrestling program, and its significance in the community.

“It demonstrates that we have a strong wrestling tradition,” Zeigler said.

The event also serves to connect Northwest’s illustrious wrestling past with its hopeful present.

“It’s a homecoming of sorts,” Zeigler said. “We are having a reunion this year.”

Members of the 2004 National Championship team will be in attendance alongside other alumni, and Zeigler welcomes his former wrestlers, the air of legacy they will add to the event, and the experience they can share with today’s Trappers.

“It’s a very special team,” the coach continued. “Very special to have them back and have them recognized.”

The veteran coach has seen how Trappers, both old and new, hit it off at these alumni events.

“There’s a communication that goes on between current and past athletes,” Zeigler said. “The one thing that they all seem to have in common is that they all wore that uniform and they all wrestled for me.”

The presence of the past can reinvigorate the team’s sense of pride.

“They look at these guys, former All-Americans and champions of the past ... It’s not unusual for someone from the class of ’95 and the class of 2007 palling around all weekend,” Zeigler said.

The current incarnation of the Trappers is in the midst of a fight to be recognized some 10 years from now. This weekend is an opportunity for the team to gauge itself against others with national tournament aspirations.

“Let’s bring the best people in here and see what our team looks like against them,” Zeigler said.

Northwest is familiar with interstate rival North Idaho (NI). The Trappers took down the No. 1 Cardinals 24-19 in Couer d’Alene when they went 5-5 and won on the back of three pins.

Northwest hasn’t faced Northeast Oklahoma (NEO) or Iowa Western (IW) this season, but all three opponents will provide some intriguing matchups for the Trappers.

Ben Jorgensen will be the top-ranked wrestler (No. 5) at 133 pounds this weekend and likely will take on one ranked opponent in No. 10 Carols Lozoya of North Idaho, though Brenden Turner may also see some action at that weight class.

Fans can expect some heated bouts at 141 pounds. Three of the nation’s top five wrestlers will be going head-to-head this weekend. Trapper Zac Loveless (No. 2) will battle North Idaho’s No. 1 Terrance McKinney and Northeastern Oklahoma’s Michael Williams.

Northwest’s Diorian Coleman is the top wrestler at 165 pounds, and both No. 7 Casey Powell (NEO) and No. 9 Tim Hester (IW) will look to knock Coleman off his perch.

The 184-pound class is one of two that features a ranked wrestler of all four schools. Trapper Miles Nixon is the highest-ranked at No. 3, but No. 7 Quinton Swanberg (IW), No. 8 Rowland Gaydosh (NI) and No. 10 Nick Meck are all close behind.

Things are similarly loaded at 197 pounds, where all four competitors are ranked in the top six.

North Idaho’s VJ Guilio tops the list at No. 1, Northeastern Oklahoma’s Shelby Krout is ranked third, Iowa Western’s Tim McDonald is fifth and Northwest’s Jon Wixom rounds out the group at sixth.

Though many of the Trappers who will suit up Friday and Saturday weren’t even in kindergarten when Northwest held the first Apodaca Showdown, the gravity of the event isn’t lost on them.

“I think that the guys, for the first time, realize the significance of wearing that Northwest uniform,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler didn’t go as far as predicting any outcomes, but said that, historically, one dual always provides a memorable thrill.

“Something special generally happens in one of them,” he said.

Whatever it is, it will carry on the tradition that was born 16 sweet years ago.

“The spirit of Northwest College is alive in that gym,” Zeigler said. “The spirit of Brooks Apodaca is alive.”

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