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Trapper eyes on Spokane

Northwest College’s Jesse Hillhouse, recently demoted to No. 2 in the national rankings, will try to earn a repeat trip to the NJCAA national championships this Saturday in Powell. Northwest College’s Jesse Hillhouse, recently demoted to No. 2 in the national rankings, will try to earn a repeat trip to the NJCAA national championships this Saturday in Powell. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

Seven teams converge on Powell for shot at nationals

Northwest College will take center stage this Saturday as the Trappers open their doors to host the 2011 NJCAA West Central wrestling championship tournament. Action begins at 10 a.m. in Hank Cabre Gymnasium with the preliminary round of eight.

By day’s end, the identities of all national tournament qualifiers from the region will be known.

“The way it works is the top 70 percent of the field qualifies,” said Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler. “So the top four in each weight class advance with the possibility of additional wild card berths being handed out depending on the number of competitors present.”

The Trappers will be joined by Western Wyoming College as well as Kansas schools Colby, Labette, Neosho County, Northwest Kansas Tech and Pratt. While short on numbers, the field is deep on talent.

Three of the seven schools — Labette, Northwest and Neosho County — are ranked among the top 15 in the nation according to the latest NJCAA poll, released on Tuesday. Colby, Pratt and Western Wyoming are all among a pool of seven schools sitting just outside the top 20 and receiving votes in the national poll.

Labette County is the highest ranked of the tournament teams, entering as No. 7. Northwest College slid to No. 11 in the latest poll while Neosho County brings the No. 15 ranking to campus. A total of 20 individually ranked wrestlers will be in attendance.

Included in that number will be five Trappers.

Nick Petersen enters the post-season still ranked atop the 184-pound division. Jesse Hillhouse, formerly the No. 1 wrestler at 133 pounds, slid to No. 2 in the latest rankings despite scoring an 8-2 win over North Idaho’s Brock Banta in what, at the time, was a meeting of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the division.

“What happened was (new No. 1 Tyler) Holloway came down from 141,” Zeigler said, explaining the sudden shift. “He had a higher national tournament place last year, so when he bumped down, they put him at the top of the division.”

Other Trappers sporting individual rankings this weekend include Keithen Cast (No. 5 at 174), Sears Tiernan (No. 7 at 285) and Ben Price (No. 10 at 197). Cast and Tiernan have been mainstays, appearing in the rankings throughout the season. Price makes his debut in the final regular-season poll.

Wrestling action begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, with the preliminary round. Semifinals are scheduled to begin at noon. Wrestle-backs will begin at 2 p.m. with the championship and third-place matches slated to go off at 5 p.m. Challenge matches for true fourth-place, if needed, will immediately follow the conclusion of the championship round.

The top four individuals at each weight and top three teams will be recognized. An award for the region’s Outstanding Wrestler and Coach of the Year will also follow.

The 2011 NJCAA National Championship wrestling tournament takes place Feb. 25-26 in Spokane, Wash.

National rankings: 1. North Idaho, 2. Clackamas, 3. Rend Lake, 4. Harper, 5. Nassau, 6. Ellsworth, 7. (tie) Labette and Highland, 9. Muskegon, 10. Iowa Central, 11. Northwest, 12. Lincoln, 13. Iowa Lakes, 14. Alfred State, 15. Neosho County, 16. Darton, 17. Ridgewater, 18. Rochester Community and Tech, 19. (tie) Middlesex County and Southwestern Oregon.

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