“This team has done a great job of learning what we’ve been teaching them to this point,” Zeigler said. “They’ve been a joy to coach because they’re as focused as any team we’ve had. They know the value of being a team and that will go …
Trappers 12th in preseason poll
Fresh off a season in which they advanced three wrestlers to the national championship match, the Northwest College wrestling team looks to begin a new season under head coach Jim Zeigler. The Trappers were tabbed No. 12 in the preseason wrestling poll released on Wednesday.
“This team has done a great job of learning what we’ve been teaching them to this point,” Zeigler said. “They’ve been a joy to coach because they’re as focused as any team we’ve had. They know the value of being a team and that will go a long way during the season.”
Zeigler also noted that the team’s recent intrasquad event showcased some promising wrestling on the mats.
This Saturday, that wrestling becomes reality and the field for this year’s NWC Open event is as stacked as ever. The University of Wyoming, including former Trapper McCade Ford, will be in attendance in full force.
“I can’t say enough about the coaches at UW,” said Zeigler. “From the moment they got to Laramie, they’ve been working with us and see us as a resource. We’ve been able to cultivate a real nice relationship and their coming here is a demonstration of their desire to help our program.”
And, the Trappers’ coach notes, it will hopefully lead to future opportunities for more graduates of the NWC program to compete in brown and gold for the Pokes.
Also attending from the NCAA Division I ranks is Utah Valley, which produced one of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting classes in the off-season. Although a young team, Zeigler notes the Utah Valley program is moving in the right direction.
“They had their first All-American last season and they’ve done a great job in building a young program,” said Zeigler. “We’ve got a lot of Utah and Idaho kids in our program and they’re excited to work with us as well.”
From north of the border, both Montana State-Northern and the University of Great Falls, common dual opponents for the Trappers, will be in attendance. Great Falls will bring three former Trappers back to Powell while the two schools together are expected to field somewhere between 60 and 75 wrestlers on the brackets this weekend.
Western Wyoming, ranked eighth in the preseason polls and coached by a pair of former NWC wrestlers, will be in town. Western returns six national qualifiers this season.
Rounding out the field will be a pair of schools making their first visit to Powell for the Open. Air Force Prep and Colorado State-Pueblo will be in town. Pueblo brings former Trapper standout Jesse Hillhouse to town.
“It’s so nice to have four-year schools support our tournament,” said Zeigler. “That should give us a strong field.”
Individually, the Trappers will be led this season by returning national runner-up Keithen Cast. The Broken Arrow, Okla., sophomore will anchor Northwest’s lineup at 174 pounds.
Elsewhere in Northwest’s lineup, the Trappers are up in the air at 125 pounds. Redshirt freshman Kamron Day, a highly touted recruit sidelined by knee injury last season, and Spokane, Wash., freshman Brandon Matlock are both in the running.
“We recruited Brandon at 133, but he might drop down to 125 for us,” said Zeigler.
Part of the rationale for Matlock’s possible drop in weight classes comes from a pleasant surplus of wrestlers at 133. In addition to Matlock, the Trappers have former Star Valley product Justin Gardner, a transfer from Colby Community College, and freshman Casey Scheidt from Parker, Colo.
“Casey comes from a great program and has good fundamentals,” said Zeigler. “He’s been a pleasant surprise for us early on.”
Another Colorado product, freshman Nathanel Garcia out of Windsor, Colo., looks to be the Trappers’ go-to guy at 141 pounds.
“He’s clearly the top guy at that weight,” said Zeigler. “He’ll come in and be competitive right away, just like Keithen was last year.”
At 149 pounds, Casper’s Cormick Eaton looks to be the Trappers’ likely No. 1 pick to start the year.
“We’ve been pleased with him,” Zeigler said. “He was injured as a senior and missed most of his final season in high school. He was able to come in late though and placed at state. He’s a scrappy kid, competitive and he has a large desire to get better.”
The Trappers had expected Powell High School grad Jimmy Seckman to be their guy, but injuries forced the former Panther from the sport.
“We hate to lose him,” Zeigler said. “You never want to see injuries, but they’re something we have to deal with in this sport. Unfortunately, this is one that leaves us up in the air at 157.”
The answer to the Trappers’ dilemma at 157 might be found at the 165 ranks. Redshirt sophomore Bernie Dupuy is back on the mat for Northwest at that weight, but so is Colby transfer Jaksen Cotterell, a national qualifier his freshman season.
Cotterell has been out of the sport for a couple seasons while serving a mission for his church. Zeigler notes he could be an option to drop to 157 for Northwest later in the season.
At the higher weights, sophomore Ben Price and freshman Miles Nixon, a former standout at Evanston, give Northwest a pleasant choice at 184.
“Miles is coming along slowly,” Zeigler said of Nixon, who, like Cotterell, has been away from the activity while serving a mission. “He has lots of promise. I’m very excited to see where he’ll be come January and February. Ben, meanwhile, is a kid that’s at his natural weight now. He had to go 197 last season because of (NJCAA national champion Nick) Petersen, but this year he should be stronger at 184.”
Redshirt freshman Cody Mansur is eager for mat time at 197 after a shoulder injury cost him all of last season. Zeigler notes that he’s pleased by the progress he’s seen from Mansur in bouncing back from that injury.
“He’s not a big heavyweight,” said Zeigler. “He’s a smaller kid for that weight class, so he has work to do.”
Action in the NWC open begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Wrestling will continue throughout the day with the championship bouts expected in the mid-to-late afternoon.
The Trappers will also be at home Nov. 9 for a dual against Montana State-Northern. Those two events will provide wrestling fans their only chances to see Northwest College’s mat men in action before 2012.