Trappers live, die by criteria in the Apodaca

By Steve Moseley
Posted 1/30/20

Incredibly, Northwest College tied not one but both its opponents in the 2020 Apodaca Dual Showdown, requiring both decisions to go to criteria (tie-breaking rules) to determine the outcomes.

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Trappers live, die by criteria in the Apodaca

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Incredibly, Northwest College tied not one but both its opponents in the 2020 Apodaca Dual Showdown, requiring both decisions to go to criteria (tie-breaking rules) to determine the outcomes.

One match went each way as Northwest College ended up with a win and a loss, both via the single criteria point.

Friday it was the Trappers over the Plainsmen of Northeastern Junior College (in Sterling, Colorado), 22-21. On Saturday, national powerhouse Iowa Central Community College of Fort Dodge escaped Cabre Gym by a whisker, 24-23.

In the first dual against NJC, the Trappers took six out of nine matches.

“We should have won seven,” coach Jim Zeigler added with a that’s-the-way-wrestling-goes shrug.

Winners for Northwest were Van Bray (who moved back down to the 133-pound weight class), Brady Lowry (who was inserted at 149 pounds), Jate Frost, Tyson Carter and Majid Muratov.

Three matches in a row, from 165 to 184, were all turnarounds for the Trappers. Northwest lost at all those weights to NJC in Sterling on Jan. 17 in a one-sided, 41-9 defeat at the hands of the Plainsmen. Winning all three at the Apodaca was key to the remarkable reversal of defeating NJC just eight days later.

Frost (165), Fox (174) and Carter (184) not only gained a measure of individual redemption, but also helped earn a great team win in the process.

Frost “had a huge turnaround” after being blanked by NJC 15-0 in the earlier dual, Zeigler said. On Friday, the decision belonged to Frost, 7-6.

Meanwhile, Zeigler said T.J. Frazier “did us a big favor” by going to the mat at heavyweight, despite being undersized, where the Trappers have been open all year.

“He stayed in there,” before losing by fall in the final seconds, the coach said.

“He wanted to win,” said Zeigler, and went all-in instead of wrestling to not get pinned. Who could fault him for that? Certainly not his coach.

“I felt bad for T.J.,” said Zeigler. “He’s just the last guy who lost. Others lost earlier.”

Against the Tritons of Iowa Central the Trappers had five winners: Bray, Lowry, Fox, Carter and Muratov.

Five Trappers were unbeaten in both duals: Bray, Fox, Muratov, Lowry and Carter.

Zeigler said Fox and Muratov are “without question the two most serious guys on our team” for their effort “on and off the mat.”

It’s no coincidence the two are also Apodaca Award winners; Fox in 2019 and Muratov this year.

Fox, especially “helped the other guys understand the meaning of this [the Apodaca]. It showed in his wrestling,” said Zeigler. “In fact, it was the best he’s wrestled.”

Fox called his big weekend “really exciting.”

“We’ve been on the road for a long time,” he said, so it was “good to be home” and wrestle in front of a “good turnout” of fans.

“We have a lot of support from the community. We’re trying to build toward that tradition” emblazoned on Trapper wrestling posters of “We are keeping Northwest tradition alive,” Fox said.

Muratov, said Zeigler, sometimes lapses into a habit of settling for wrestling just hard enough to win. Not so last weekend, however, when the native of Uzbekistan extended himself in a big way.

“That’s the hardest I’ve seen him wrestle,” observed Zeigler. With nice crowds added to the mix, the coach said his solid 197-pounder wrestled “at a higher level this weekend.”

What made the difference?

“We talk,” Muratov answered, gesturing toward his coach. “He made us more aggressive” by turning up the burner in practice to include head-to-head, full-out combat.

Zeigler had been reluctant to do that up to now, trying to protect a squad lacking depth from injuries in the practice room.

Carter took down NJC’s returning regional champion after falling hard to him in Sterling.

“I wanted to make things right in my head,” Carter said. Mission accomplished: Carter won with a takedown in overtime.

“It was a now-or-never situation,” he said.

One thing that got him the “W,” Carter said, was hearing Zeigler exhorting him to “Believe. Believe. Believe” in full voice.

As for Lowry, he said he “tried to wrestle smarter” last weekend.

“I’ve been getting a little rowdy,” he added with a grin, offering no further details.

Mostly, Bray said, “I had fun watching the team.”

Zeigler said Bray “wrestled a little flat” Friday but was all business Saturday.

What made the difference?

“I got a little food in me,” said Bray, bringing laughs from his gathered teammates. Bray has been stuck in limbo between 133 — where he must battle his weight — and 141, where he hasn’t been quite big enough. But 141 it will be from now on. Zeigler said it will make Bray a better wrestler to build him up to 141 rather than constantly battling to make weight at 133.

Overall, Zeigler proclaimed himself “very happy” with the Friday-Saturday event.

“It was a momentum thing that we needed,” he said.

Having everyone healthy and on the same page for the first time this season, “changes the mindset of the team,” he said, “You could sense the difference in practice Monday.”

“The spirit of the event weighed heavy on their minds. They wrestled well,” Zeigler said. “They wrestled up to the expectations of that [spirit].”

On Saturday the Trappers travel to Riverton where they will meet Western Wyoming — ranked No. 1 in the nation — as a feature event ahead of the finals of the Ron Thon high school invitational. The Powell Panther wrestlers are having a strong season and are sure to cast a large shadow over the Ron Thon as well.

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