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February 22, 2011 8:29 am

Trappers prepare for nationals

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Brackets released, rankings updated in advance of tourney

For the seven national tournament qualifiers from the Northwest College wrestling team, the brackets have been set. Competitors now know the identity of their first-round opponents and can begin to scout a possible path through the brackets.

For Trapper head coach Jim Zeigler though, this stage of the game is all about taking things one step at a time.

“You want to take care of this one so you can move on to the next one,” Zeigler said. “Like every year, we’ve got some kids that received what we view as favorable brackets while others have a little extra work to do.”

Northwest College will carry the nation’s No. 8 ranking to Spokane, Wash., for this weekend’s national championship tournament. The Trappers jumped back into the top 10 after a runner-up finish in the West Central Zone tournament.

Two members of the Trappers’ national roster will go to Spokane with the bull’s-eye of being the No. 1 wrestler in their division on their backs.

Sophomore Nick Petersen remains atop the 184-pound division as he has for much of the season. Petersen will be one of two Trappers receiving first-round byes at the national tournament, but could have a date with No. 11 Nate Bazan of Muskegon in the second round.

“Nick’s quarter bracket really sets up nice,” Zeigler said. “We like his position.”

Sophomore Jesse Hillhouse (133) will also make the trek to Washington as the No. 1 grappler in his weight class. After a one-week hiatus atop the standings, Hillhouse reclaimed the top spot after being named the West Central tournament’s outstanding wrestler. Hillhouse opens against Ridgewater’s Nate Friederich and could face North Idaho’s Brock Banta in the second round.

Hillhouse and Banta were the 133-pound division’s top two ranked wrestlers when they faced off in Powell just three weeks ago.

“We’re confident, but not overconfident that we know how to wrestle that match,” Zeigler said of the possible round two encounter. “You don’t want to look past the first round, because we don’t know a whole lot about that kid, but if it comes to that, we feel like we have a game plan in place.”

Three other Trapper wrestlers will also carry national rankings to Spokane. Freshman Keithen Cast headlines that group with the No. 4 ranking at 174 pounds.

Cast received a first-round bye at his first national tournament. The gentle beginning might be the only thing easy about Cast’s time in Spokane. The 174-pound bracket has been described as one of the toughest in the national field with four returning All-Americans in the field.

West Central runner-up Sears Tiernan carries a No. 7 ranking for the Trappers and draws an unranked opponent in the first round. After that, a second-round date with second-ranked Adam Chalfant of Harper College could grace the 285-pound bracket.

“He’s one of the ones that has some work to do,” Zeigler said. “Sears will have his hands full out there. A lot of people are expecting Chalfant to reach the finals from that half of the bracket. We’re hoping to have a chance to go in and knock him off.”

Ben Price, ranked No. 9 at 197, opens against unranked Weston Hawkins of North Iowa Area Community College. Should he get past that, Price could find himself on the mat against North Idaho’s Jamelle Jones, currently ranked No. 1.

Other first-round pairings for the Trappers include Bobby Robbins facing Iowa Central’s Ryan Davis at 149 pounds. Bernie Dupuy (165) gets James Bennett of Mercyhurst to open. Neither opponent appears in the latest rankings.

“We don’t know much about Davis, but we know the Iowa Central program,” Zeigler said. “We know whoever they put on the mat will be a very solid wrestler, so we have to be ready for that. Bernie, if he gets past his first opponent, will have his work cut out for him in a bracket with two former national champions in it. When you get to this stage, there are tough, quality kids at every weight.”

The 2011 NJCAA wrestling championships start Friday morning and run through Saturday night at Spokane’s Convention Center. The Powell Tribune will attempt to update local fans of the Trappers’ progress via its blog at www.powelltribune.com.

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