After debuting the season at No. 3 in the polls, Petersen moved into the top spot in December. Moorehead moved up to No. 2 at the start of 2011 and on Saturday the two gave a performance worthy of their status.
Petersen scored an early first-period takedown, but could keep Moorehead on the mat for only 15 seconds before he returned to a neutral position. Things remained there for the remainder of the first period.
Petersen began the second period in the down position and was held there for the full two minutes by Moorehead. Neither wrestler scored a point, but the performance put Moorehead in a position to possibly score a point for riding time at the end of the match unless Petersen was able to do something to change the situation in the final two minutes.
Petersen returned the favor, fending off a couple roll attempts by Moorehead to whittle the riding time differential to less than one minute. He continued to remain in control of his opponent, answering a final Moorehead scramble with a lift that put the Rend Lake wrestler on the mat for two back points with 10 seconds remaining in the match.
“Going in to the third period, I was just thinking that I needed to ride him and get that minute off, so that if he got up we could go to overtime,” Petersen said. “I wasn’t even thinking about riding him for more than that first minute. He was close to getting up, but coach really worked with us on returning him to the mat and as soon as he stood up, I was thinking that I had to get it.”
The championship-round drama was the only nervous moment Petersen had in Spokane. After receiving a first-round bye, he advanced to the title round with a 13-3 major decision, a first-period fall and an 8-0 domination of the nation’s third-ranked grappler.
“Nick wrestled like a machine this weekend,” said Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler. “He was calm and collected throughout the tournament. He was calm in his preparation. He was calm and focused on the mat. He was basically unchallenged the entire tournament.”
The dominating performance made Petersen the 11th national champion crowned in Zeigler’s 18-year tenure as Trapper head coach. He almost wasn’t alone atop the podium on Saturday night.
In addition to Petersen, the Trappers had two other wrestlers reach the championship round of the national tournament. Jesse Hillhouse lost a 3-2 decision in double overtime while trying for the 133-pound title. Keithen Cast dropped a 5-3 decision in his attempt to become a freshman national champion at 174 pounds.
Both earned All-American status for their efforts, as did Petersen. The Trappers have now produced 81 All-Americans under Zeigler.
That number was almost one higher. Sophomore Sears Tiernan came within one victory of achieving an All-American title at 285 pounds after losing a tough match to the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the nation in the second round. Trappers Bobby Robbins, Bernie Dupuy and Ben Price were also knocked out of the consolation bracket short of the All-American round.
“Overall, it was one of the most joyous coaching experiences I’ve had,” Zeigler said of the weekend. “Having three kids in the finals is just spectacular. These kids really lived up to their potential, even the ones that didn’t reach the finals. Bobby going 2-2. Sears just missing the top eight. Bernie coming back after battling through his injuries and Ben battling close. They just put everything they had into it.”
As a team, Northwest College finished eighth in the overall standings, which combine both scholarship and non-scholarship schools, with 72.5 points. The result gives the Trappers their 17th consecutive finish in the top 10 of the national tournament.
Clackamas captured the 2011 national title with 109 points. North Idaho was second in the overall standings with 98.5 points and Rend Lake placed third with 94 points.
How they fared:
133 — Jesse Hillhouse won by fall in 6:41 over Nate Friederich; won a 7-2 decision over Brock Banta; won a 7-3 decision over Wismit Moinius; won by injury default over Brandon Wright; lost 3-2 in double-overtime to Tyler Holloway. Finished as national runner-up and All-American.
149 — Bobby Robbins won a 5-4 decision over Ryan Davis; lost a 16-5 major decision to Mark Marianovich; won a 7-4 decision over Ray Martinez; lost an 11-2 major decision to Mac Malderelli. Finished 2-2 overall.
165 — Bernie Dupuy won a 10-4 decision over James Bennett; lost a 7-3 decision to Derek Mestrovich; lost an 11-10 decision to Rick Goerke. Finished 1-2 overall.
174 — Keithern Cast advanced out of the first round on a bye; won by injury default over Tony Lisek; won an 8-6 decision over Travis Peralta; won a 4-3 decision over Khari Washington; lost 5-3 to Jesse Nielson. Finished as national runner-up and All-American.
184 — Nick Petersen advanced out of the first round on a bye; won a 13-3 major decision over Nate Bazan; won by fall in 2:05 over Teagan Franco; won an 8-0 major decision over Arber Bebo; won a 4-1 decision over Austin Moorehead. Finished as 2011 national champion and All-American.
197 — Ben Price lost a 4-0 decision to Weston Hawkins; advanced on a bye in the first consolation round; lost a 3-2 decision to Darren Faber. Finished 1-2 overall.
285 — Sears Tiernan won by fall in 2:26 over Jesse Deyo; lost a 12-2 major decision to Adam Chalfant; won by injury default over Quintin Moore; won by fall in 6:46 over Joe Welton; lost an 11-2 major decision to Karl Green. Finished 3-2 overall.