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NWC sending seven to nationals

Nick Petersen gets the upper hand during a wild overtime scramble to win the 184-pound title at Saturday’s West Central Zone championship tournament. Nick Petersen gets the upper hand during a wild overtime scramble to win the 184-pound title at Saturday’s West Central Zone championship tournament. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

Hillhouse named outstanding wrestler

Seven out of nine Northwest College wrestlers earned a spot on the NJCAA national championship bracket while the Trapper team placed second at the West Central Zone championships Saturday. The team now takes a week off to prepare for the national championships in Spokane, Wash.

“It feels good to be going back,” said sophomore 133-pounder Jesse Hillhouse, who was crowned the weekend’s outstanding wrestler at the conclusion of Saturday’s championship round.

Hillhouse, who spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation at 133 pounds before recently being relegated to No. 2 in the rankings, had no trouble carving his way through the West Central bracket. The returning All-American received a first-round bye and added wins of 9-1 and 11-5 to win his division.

The victory was one of three weight class championships enjoyed by the Trappers on Saturday.

Also victorious was sophomore Nick Petersen, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds. Petersen dominated his first two matches, scoring a 10-0 victory in the quarterfinals and a win by fall in the semifinals. He was pushed to the limit in the championship round by Labette freshman Ray Hall.

Hall, who entered the match ranked eighth nationally, scored a pair of quick first-period takedowns on Petersen. The Trappers’ sophomore was able to get to his feet within seconds on both occasions, but struggled to get Hall to the mat.

Conditioning appeared to play a role as the match wore into the third period. Still trailing, Petersen was finally able to connect for a takedown and send the match to overtime, where a wild scramble finished with Petersen on top for the winning takedown.

Freshman Keithen Cast had no such troubles on his way to the 174-pound title. Cast dominated his opening match 12-6 and was on the way to a similar win in the semifinals when a late takedown led straight into a pinning combination to give the Trappers a win by fall. In the championship round, Cast scored a pair of early takedowns and spent much of the match controlling his opponent on the mat for an 8-1 victory.

Two other Trappers reached the championship match before suffering their only defeat of the day. Sophomore Sears Tiernan earned a spot in the championship round with a 9-3 semifinal victory, but fell 4-1 in a meeting of wrestlers ranked in the top six of the 285-pound division.

Ben Price, ranked No. 10 nationally, earned his spot in the championship match by scoring a last-second takedown in the semifinals. That magic didn’t carry over to the final round, where Price dropped a 9-3 decision to the current No. 2 wrestler in the 197-pound division.

Northwest picked up two additional national qualifiers in Bobby Robbins (149) and Bernie Dupuy (165). Both grapplers finished third after stringing together back-to-back victories following losses in the semifinals.

As a team, the Trappers finished with 73.5 team points to place second among the seven-school field. Northwest College had entered the weekend ranked No. 11 nationally.

Labette, ranked No. 7 entering the weekend, captured the West Central team title with 114 points overall. Colby, one of three unranked West Central teams to receive votes in the final regular-season batch of polls, placed third with 60 points.

The NJCAA national championships take place Feb. 25-26 in Spokane.

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