In the limelight

Posted 1/28/10

Zeigler's efforts to create that sort of situation take center stage this Friday and Saturday as Northwest College hosts the Apodaca Duals Showdown. The event will bring four of the nation's top seven wrestling programs and more than two dozen …

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In the limelight


{gallery}01_28_10/nwcwrestling{/gallery}Northwest College sophomore Mak Jones, (left) shown from action earlier in the year, will be one of 29-nationally ranked wrestlers to take to the mat this weekend as part of the Apodaca Duals Showdown. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik Apodaca Duals bring national focus to PowellIn coaching circles, there's an adage that says you can't coach desire. Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler has a slightly different take on the situation. “They might say you can't instill desire, but you can certainly create situations that elevate desire and force it to come to the surface,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler's efforts to create that sort of situation take center stage this Friday and Saturday as Northwest College hosts the Apodaca Duals Showdown. The event will bring four of the nation's top seven wrestling programs and more than two dozen nationally -ranked wrestlers — including six of the 10 top-ranked grapplers in the nation, according to the latest NJCAA poll — to town for two days of competition.

It will also bring a bevy of national attention and interest in the outcome of various matches during the 48 hours the tournament takes place.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to know if we're posting the results on the Internet,” said Zeigler. “We've got more of the top-ranked teams here than they had at the national dual tournament. A lot of wrestling coaches and wrestling fans will be very interested in what happens here during the duals.”

That's not by accident. Zeigler has worked hard over the years to make the event — now in its 12th year and named in honor of former Trapper wrestler Christopher Brooks Apodaca, who was killed in a single vehicle accident in 1998 — a showcase event.

“The tournament has evolved tremendously since it first started,” Zeigler notes. “We wanted to make it something that showcased the team aspect of wrestling, so that's why we use the dual format and bring in some of the best kids in the nation. We try to keep it at a small number of teams and we try to get the No. 1 team in the nation here every year. Most years, including this one, we're able to do that.”

Not only does the tournament feature the top-ranked wrestling team in the nation in three-time defending national champion Iowa Central. It also features the No. 1 ranked wrestler in six of the 10 collegiate weight classes. Every weight class in the tournament contains a minimum of two nationally-ranked wrestlers.

But the wrestling is just a part of what the Apodaca weekend has evolved into. Zeigler uses the event as a homecoming of sorts, inviting wrestling alumni back to campus to tour the facilities, to reacquaint themselves with campus, share experiences with current Trapper wrestlers and to bask in a celebration of the sport of college wrestling.

“I like that this event draws national wrestling attention for two days,” said Zeigler. “I like that we draw alumni to campus for two days. I like to think the streets of Powell are a little busier while the tournament takes place and that all the motel rooms in town are full. I like that we can have an impact like that on the community.”

The Apodaca Duals also provide a forum to showcase the Trappers' quality wrestling program to aspiring junior college wrestlers. For the third time in the history of the tournament, Powell High School will help start the tournament, wrestling a dual against Lander on Friday night.

“We try to incorporate the high school team whenever we can,” said Zeigler. “This way we don't split the wrestling fan base that night, plus it gives the high school kids the opportunity to experience the atmosphere and witness what it takes to wrestle at the next level.”

The tournament also provides the venue for the presentation of the Apodaca Award for Leadership and Excellence, an annual recognition of one member of the Northwest College wrestling team. Contrary to the grandeur of the event, the award goes, not to the Trappers' top wrestler, but to the wrestler who is judged to make the biggest difference and positive influence to the Northwest College program.

“Some years that's your top wrestler, but many years it isn't,” said Zeigler, not tipping his hand about who this year's recipient might be. “The goal of the award is to recognize someone who is good at the little things that make a wrestling team good. Every team has that individual, or if they don't, they're dying to get one, who is their glue and their inspiration.”

There will be additional presentations as well. Two scholarships will be presented on Friday, the tournament's first night. Also on Friday, there will be a presentation made to Zeigler to honor his 2009 induction into the NJCAA Hall of Fame.

In the end, though, the weekend still comes down to wrestling and, for the many local fans who will be following the action, the Trappers' performance on the mat.

“We spend some time talking about what this meet means,” Zeigler said, noting his Northwest College lineup is probably as healthy as it's been this season heading into the weekend. “I want this to be an opportunity for them to put it all on the line and give their best effort before the regional and national tournament. This is really a test run for the national tournament.

“I want them to go out and put it all on the line this weekend —no fear. I want to create a big stage for not only our wrestlers, but also for the community, for wrestling fans, and for alumni, to come and watch some top-ranked teams. Word travels from this event. A lot of people — coaches at four-year schools — will be paying attention to what happens here and that makes it a big stage for these guys.”