Five Trappers emerged as champions and all 10 qualified for the NJCAA National Championship in Spokane, Wash., Feb. 27-March 1.
The scene was tense, and NWC head coach Jim Zeigler would know all about that.
“This is one of the most intense tournaments and events I’ve had in 20 years,” the coach said.
Northwest finished second in team scores with 134 points, just behind No. 1 Clackamas Community College’s 137.5, despite placing the most champions of any team, beating Clackamas 4-0 in final bouts and finishing ahead of the Cougars in seven of 10 weight classes.
Zeigler said the Trappers certainly felt like they won the tournament, but what’s more important is that they are set up for nationals and are wrestling at their best when it matters most.
“It’s definitely a feeling we want to get back in two weeks,” Zeigler said. “We got a taste of it and we want more.”
Jeff McCormick highlighted the action-packed day by taking down the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked wrestlers in the nation to win the 149-pound title. A wrestler at 157 pounds all season, McCormick dropped to 149 after losing weight during his recovery from an appendectomy.
McCormick was seeded fourth in the bracket (an “injustice,” said Zeigler) and faced top-ranked Jeremy Golding of North Idaho in the semifinals after receiving a bye in the first round.
“I feel like Jeff came in with a chip on his shoulder,” Zeigler said. “He put everything he had into that first match.”
McCormick, a redshirt freshman, controlled the pace of the match and was “so savvy and so smart with his wrestling” on his way to a 3-2 decision victory.
“It was an extremely emotional moment for everyone on the team,” Zeigler said.
The coach said McCormick’s win — in his first action since Dec. 14 — inspired the rest of the Trappers.
It made the rest of the team think, “I have no excuse to not give it everything I got,” Zeigler said. “It really set a tone for the team.”
Sophomore Cody Vichi, who was out three weeks with an injured hand, also made his return for the Trappers. The third-ranked Vichi pinned Southwest Oregon’s Mathew Nguyen at 5:39 of the finals to claim the 125-pound title.
“I thought Cody looked like a world champion,” Zeigler said.
Sophomore Zac Loveless took the 141-pound title, but only after battling No. 8 Robbie Rizzolino of Clackamas in an epic seven-period final bout.
Loveless, ranked third at 141, was down 4-1 after the first period but fought back to close the gap 4-3 after two. Another takedown gave Loveless a brief 5-4 lead but Rizzolino scored an escape in time to send the match into overtime. After three scoreless overtime periods Loveless finally tripped up a retreating Rizzolino by the ankle and pounced on top to score the match-winning takedown.
Cole McArthur went 3-0 on his way to the 174-pound title. The ninth-ranked McArthur shut out his opponents in the first two rounds (5-0 then 3-0) before downing Clackamas’ Tyler White 8-6 in the finals.
Miles Nixon topped the 184-pound bracket with a 3-0 record. His final bout versus No. 1 Adrian Salas of Clackamas was stopped due to a Salas injury at 2:28.
Sophomore Diorian Coleman (ranked fifth) narrowly lost the 165-pound title when he dropped the final bout 3-2 to No. 11 Tyler McLean of North Idaho.
Jon Wixom took down the No. 2-ranked Ihoughama Odighizuwa of Clackamas in the 197-pound semifinals but lost a 16-4 major decision to No. 3 V.J. Giulio of North Idaho in the finals.
Ben Jorgensen went 2-1 and took third place at 133 pounds, besting Lucas Garza of Southwest Oregon.
Kaelen Loveless went 1-2 and placed fifth at 157 pounds after beating Highland Community College’s John Hedge.
Heavyweight Gabe Escobedo was 0-2 and finished fifth.
Zeigler said he doesn’t know how much better his team can wrestle, but he knows some of his guys can get healthier come nationals.
“Cody and Jeff can definitely get more physically ready,” the coach said.
McCormick received the Outstanding Wrestler award and Zeigler was named the West District Coach of the Year. Both awards are voted on by coaches in attendance.