Four of the five Northwest College wrestlers who qualified for the NJCAA National Wrestling Championship last weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa, came home with at least one win among a crowded field of …
Four of the five Northwest College wrestlers who qualified for the NJCAA National Wrestling Championship last weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa, came home with at least one win among a crowded field of the nation’s finest.
Daniel Jordan at 285 pounds and Yair Moran at 174 advanced the farthest for the Trappers, compiling 2-2 records. Porter Fox at 184 pounds and Palmer Schafer at 149 pounds finished 1-2, while Boburjon Berdiyorov went 0-2 with a bye.
“They competed. It certainly was disappointing that we didn’t have anybody make the podium, but I think the kids wrestled really well,” said NWC head coach Jim Zeigler. “They competed hard; I think they learned some things.”
That said, the experience was “a humbling one” for Zeigler, after so many years of the Trappers in the mix as one of the teams to beat.
“I think we ended up 33rd as a team, which is only the second time in 26 years that a team I’ve coached has been out of the top 10,” he said. “That’s humbling.”
Fox was the only Trapper wrestler to win his first-round match, defeating Lackawanna College’s Emmanuel Nchako to advance to the championship bracket.
Schafer was the only Trapper wrestler with national tournament experience; the other four were experiencing junior college wrestling on the highest stage for the first time, and may have found their surroundings a bit intimidating at first.
“I think they were a little wide-eyed in there,” Zeigler said. “But I think every match they wrestled, they settled in more. Kids tend to wrestle better in the later rounds. They didn’t get far enough, but I think those kids in the back door did pretty well.”
At 285 pounds, Jordan lost his opening match to Iowa Central’s Gunner Cash, but rebounded in the consolation rounds with wins over Aaron Pringle (Neosho) and John McCarthy (Lackawanna). He lost to North Idaho’s Connor Sullivan in his final match; Sullivan went on to finish fourth.
After losing his opening-round match at 174 pounds to Harper’s Jaun Quiroz, Moran defeated Neosho’s Elias Manzanares and Northeast Oklahoma’s Kalin Winkler in the consolation rounds. He lost his final match to Lackawanna’s Jacquan McPherson.
“Daniel [Jordan] and Yair [Moran] both got a couple of wins on the back side, and I felt a little momentum with them,” Zeigler said. “If they had won one more, I think they could have really stepped up a notch. It didn’t happen, and that’s OK. They’re good kids, they’ve learned some things.”
After advancing to the championship bracket, Fox lost back-to-back matches against Iowa Central’s Brian Stanford and Northeast Oklahoma’s Alex Kauffman. Kauffman went on to finish fourth, while Stanford finished sixth.
“Porter Fox wrestled really tough, but he lost to a really good kid in the second round,” Zeigler said. “Both guys that beat him were All-Americans, and he wrestled tough against both of them.”
Schafer, the only Trapper back at nationals from last year’s team, lost to Clackamas’ Martin Margolis III in the opening round. He rebounded in the consolation bracket with a win over Mercyhurst’s Aaron Morris, before falling to Northeastern’s Maverick Keigher to finish 1-2 for the tournament.
Northwest’s Berdiyorov had a tough draw at 133 pounds, finishing 0-2 with a bye. He lost to Henry Ford’s Santos Alverez in the opening round, and followed that with a loss to Clackamas’ Jason Shaner in the consolation bracket. Shaker went on to earn All-American honors with a fifth-place finish.
“Bobur [Berdiyorov] is just really young, and he just wasn’t ready for that stage,” Zeigler said.
It’s been a tumultuous season for the Trappers, with low participation numbers and nagging injuries presenting challenges over the course of the year. With the season now at an end, Zeigler said he will continue to recruit in earnest with an eye toward returning the program to its former glory.
“It’s been a very challenging year, and I’ve had to look to other types of success other than just winning matches. I think we found that, but that’s a consolation only to a certain extent,” he said. “We want to be competitive and be in that top 10 and be chasing a trophy. We want to be crowning national champions and All-Americans. That’s been very motivating to me as a coach to recruit harder, and so far we’re in good shape. The 2019-20 season started Monday, and I’m excited about it.”