No. 4 NWC departs for regional action

Posted 2/11/10

“The lineup that we're taking to the regional tournament is the same lineup we used against Iowa Central,” said Trapper wrestling coach Jim Zeigler, alluding to the team's near-miss against the nation's top-ranked team at the Apodaca …

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No. 4 NWC departs for regional action

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{gallery}02_11_10/nwcwrestling{/gallery}Northwest College's Bobby Robins will be one of 10 Trapper wrestlers competing in the West Central regional tournament in Colby, Kan., this weekend. NWC takes a No. 4 national ranking into the tournament as it looks to contend for a regional title. Tribune photo by Randal HorobikTrappers take eight nationally-ranked grapplers to talent-heavy eventJunior college wrestling enters the post-season this weekend as the Northwest College Trappers, ranked No. 4 in the final poll of the regular season, head to Colby, Kan., for West Central regional tournament action. Eight of the 10 wrestlers from Powell carry national rankings into the event.

“The lineup that we're taking to the regional tournament is the same lineup we used against Iowa Central,” said Trapper wrestling coach Jim Zeigler, alluding to the team's near-miss against the nation's top-ranked team at the Apodaca Dual Showdown. “The great thing is that, back in October, this was the lineup that I'd pretty much envisioned us having. It's very rare that you're actually able to take what you envision in October and put it on the mat in February, because there are so many variables that can occur during the year. For us to be in this position makes me feel very confident.”

That confidence could come in handy against a regional tournament field that is almost every bit as loaded as the one Zeigler brought to town for the Apodaca Duals. Northwest College will be one of five teams ranked in the top 14 to attend this weekend's regional meet.

“It's a very tough field,” Zeigler acknowledged. “It's fantastic to have that sort of quality to compete against. As I look at the field, there's only two schools in our region that haven't won the national title at some point in time. At least one of the schools in our region seems to be in the mix for the national title every year and I think this year isn't any different.”

The talent isn't limited to the team level. In all, 23 nationally-ranked wrestlers will be in attendance, including three of the nation's No. 1 seeds. Every weight class features at least one top-six wrestler and five of the 10 weight classes have two or more competitors currently ranked among the top six.

Several of those top-six competitors will be supplied by the Trappers. Nick Petersen (174) and Mak Jones (194) are both ranked third entering the weekend. McCade Ford (141) carries a No. 4 ranking while heavyweight Landon Harris and Saul Guerrero (133) step on the mat with No. 5 rankings nationally. Jesse Hillhouse is ranked No. 6 at 125 pounds.

Rounding out the Trappers' weekend lineup are Bobby Robins (149), Briston Brenton (No. 9 at 157), Zach Oppenheimer (165) and Jarrett Baker (No. 12 at 184).

The goal for everyone in attendance is earning a spot in the top three. Landing in one of the top three spots on the medal podium ensures a wrestler of a place on the 32-person national tournament bracket. Additional wild-card spots will be available, but the exact number won't be known until the start of the tournament.

“They're there as a safety net,” Zeigler says of the additional berths. “After the tournament the coaches get together and determine the most deserving wrestlers that didn't place in the top three. If you have a tough class, it might be the fourth and fifth guys from this division. If it was a weaker weight class, you might not give anyone in it a wild card.”

The are drawbacks, however. Wrestlers receiving a wild card at regional competition will likely find themselves beginning the national tournament on the mat against a regional tournament champion.

“They're there as a safety net for people who have demonstrated they can compete at the national level,” Zeigler said. “But it isn't a situation you want to put yourself in as a competitor. You want to take care of business and be top three this weekend.”

If all goes according to plan, the Trappers should have several wrestlers in the top three by the end of regional action. All eight of NWC's ranked wrestlers project to place in the top three and Zeigler is confident those projections can hold up this weekend.

“I think we're wrestling well right now,” Zeigler said. “I think things came together at the right time. We found ourselves as a team at the Apodacas and we're still riding the high from that. We've avoided the drama and the injuries that can negatively impact things and we've continued to get better. As a coach, that's what you want to see.”

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