Locked and loaded

Posted 10/29/09

Those expectations might be a little stronger than in most years, considering what the Trappers return. Zeigler's troops boast a season of experience and, at most weight levels, carry good depth across the board.

Headlining the list of returning …

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Locked and loaded


{gallery}10_29_09/wrestling{/gallery} Saul Guerrero, shown here in action last season, is one of three returning junior college All-Americans and one of five returning national tournament qualifiers for head coach Jim Zeigler this season. The Trappers will hold some exhibition matches this Saturday at the Trapper Gym in the Johnson Fitness Center before opening the year Nov. 7 with the Northwest College Open. Tribune file photo Experience a plus for Northwest Trapper grapplersSeven starters, including three junior college All-Americans and two other national tournament qualifiers, return this season for Northwest College head wrestling coach Jim Zeigler. The team will be gunning for its 16th consecutive finish in the national top 10. “We placed 10th last season, and that almost felt a little disappointing,” Zeigler said. “As much tradition as our program has, we expect to be in the top tier of the standings.”

Those expectations might be a little stronger than in most years, considering what the Trappers return. Zeigler's troops boast a season of experience and, at most weight levels, carry good depth across the board.

Headlining the list of returning sophomores is 2009 national runner-up at 285, Landon Harris. Harris compiled an impressive 32-3 record on the mat last year and will have all eyes focused on him once the competitive season opens.

Joining Harris are returning All-Americans Saul Guerrero (133) and McCade Ford (141). Both placed in the top eight at last year's junior college nationals and are being counted on to be part of the core of this year's Trapper team.

Also back from the Trappers' national tournament roster last season are Mak Jones (197) and Briston Brenton (157). Brenton missed All-American honors by one win at last year's national tournament.

“He was very close,” Zeigler said of Brenton. “He reached the medal round, but wasn't able to win his match to get into the top eight. Mak is just the sort of person who could really be a signature guy. His work ethic makes him the sort of person you talk about as an example for years to come.”

Eddie Whiting (125) and Tyrel Wright (174) were also regular starters for the Trapper wrestling program last season.

“We have the ability to do well this year,” said Zeigler. “Part of the strength of the program is its consistency. We don't have a turnover rate. We had 31 kids on the first day of class. We still have 31 guys, and that's the sort of commitment that builds your team.”

That's not to say the Trappers will rely solely upon their sophomore class this season. There's an abundance of first-year team members that could find their way into Northwest's rotation.

The 125-pound weight division brought in a pair of state champions in the off-season to challenge Whiting. Jesse Hillhouse earned Wyoming state champion honors for Kelly Walsh as a senior. Philip Grout was a two-time state champion in Colorado and also holds a runner-up title in that state.

Freshmen Jake Budd (Lander) and Derek Roetman (Sharpsburg, Ga.) will supplement Guerrero at 133. Seth Haas, a state place-winner from the wrestling-tough state of Michigan, Hulett native Lincoln Driskill and Salina, Utah, prospect Bobby Robins will battle to provide depth at 141 or, alternatively, to allow Zeigler the option of bumping Ford up to 149 in at least some situations.

Entering the Trappers' program at 149 is three-time Louisiana state champion Tony Wood. Also slotted to compete at 149 this season is Oregon state runner-up Cody Britt, who, it seems, can't get enough wrestling.

“He's a two-sport athlete here at Northwest,” Zeigler said of Britt. “In the fall and spring, he's a steer wrestler on the rodeo team.”

Wood, meanwhile, could also go at 157 for the Trappers. The team also has Rexburg, Idaho, freshman Shawn Horn available to back up Brenton.

The 165-pound weight class could be the most interesting division for the Trappers, particularly early in the season as the team waits to see what sort of pecking order develops. Among the options are a three-time Wyoming champion in Cody Brown, a two-time Louisiana state champion in Bernie Dupuy and a Utah state runner-up in Zach Oppenheimer.

“Zach has a great work ethic. He's just a hard-nosed, tough kid,” Zeigler said. “Bernie is very technically sound and just a solid kid, and folks in this area probably recognize Cody as a three-time champion from Casper Natrona.”

Depending how things shake out, Dupuy has the capability to also bump up to 174 for the Trappers. Also available at 174 is another Utah prospect in Nick Petersen, as well as a Rexburg product — Kody Stock.

Northwest College literally went to the corners of the nation to find wrestlers to slot at 184. Jarrett Baker comes to Powell from Land O'Lakes, Fla., where he was a state runner-up. His primary competition, Aaron Philips, is an Alaskan state champion from the town of Kotzebue, situated 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the state's western coast.

“Jarrett has great strength and athletic skills, but he hasn't been wrestling as long as many of the others,” said Zeigler. “His success right now comes from his athletic ability. When his technique catches up, he's going to have a great future in the sport. Aaron also has tremendous potential. He has a very strong body type.”

The Trappers' upper two weights appear fairly secure with Jones and Harris each coming off brilliant freshman campaigns. Jonathan Tiernan, a sophomore from Delray Beach, Fla., and freshmen Sergio Pedroza and Kyle Starling add further depth to the top weight. Pedroza is a two-time state champion from Utah who could be destined to redshirt the 2009-2010 season.

“We've got an interesting group dynamic right now,” said Zeigler. “We've spent the fall doing a lot of team-building activities. These kids have really taken a liking to each other. Their work ethic is outstanding and they're good citizens. It all feeds into the success we hope to have on the mat.”

The Trappers will hold some exhibition matches on Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m. in the Trapper Gym. The public is welcome to attend.

The first competition for the Northwest College wrestling team comes on Saturday, Nov. 7, when the team hosts the NWC Open tournament. Among the teams participating will be the University of Wyoming.