P O W E L L, W y o. - Wasatch High School graduate Pete Julander paced the Northwest College Wrestling Team to the national championship and earned personal glory for himself as well with an individual placing.
Wrestling at 184 pounds, Julander helped the NWC Trappers of Powell, Wyo., rewrite the record books at the National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling Championship tournament Feb. 27 and 28 in Rochester, Minn.
The Trappers posted 155.5 points to claim top dog honors, the most recorded by a single team during the entire 44-year history of the tournament. California's Lassen College was a distant second, posting 89.5 points, followed by Iowa Central Community College (87.5), North Idaho College (82) and Kansas' Colby Community College (78.5)
The NWC grapplers were ranked first in the nation before they even hit the mats this season and never surrendered their position. And for the first time in its history, Northwest College qualified a wrestler for the national tournament in all 10 weight categories.
Julander figured prominently in that success story. The sophomore All-American scrapped his way to a seventh place finish at the tournament.
He was an All-American wrestler for NWC in 2001 and took eighth place in the 165-pound weight division at that national tournament.
"Two years later, with the extra weight of a wife and child soon to be born, Pete found his way back to NWC to try his hand at wrestling again," NWC Wrestling Coach Jim Zeigler said.
During those two years off, Pete worked a lot of odd jobs supporting his new family," according to Zeigler. "During that time, his wrestling skills buried themselves somewhere and it was hard to find them. He struggled more than most in trying to get back into it. His timing was off; his body was out of shape; and he needed a lot of polish. This is generally the case when someone sits out from the sport for that long. But like any other talented athlete, the skills will resurface when you least expect them and they usually resurface all at once. It just clicks, and that's what happened for him."
Zeigler and Julander's fellow team members can almost pinpoint the exact date things clicked for him. "We all think the light switch went on right after his baby, James, was born. The boys on the team call it "'Dad Power'," Zeigler said.
Julander was a complete player this year, according to his coach. "He wasn't able to make the squad in the early part of the year at his 174 pound weight class, so we moved him to the 184 pound spot. He was giving up some weight because his general weight is right around 179, but he was able to overcome the time off and the disadvantage of weight and become an All American for the second time. This guy is a dedicated, quality individual who had already proven himself, and then he came back and did it again for us."
After two national placings, Julander is ending his collegiate wrestling career.
"He's accomplished what he wanted to accomplish," Zeigler said. "Now he's ready to finish his education, to be a husband, a dad , and a biology teacher and wrestling coach."
Named the 2004 national coach of the year, Zeigler has carved a reputation for his coaching philosophy, which includes monthly team/family dinners, regular off-the-mat team/family activities and weekly (sometim es twice-weekly) compulsory academic study halls for the whole team. He recruits young wrestlers on the basis of their character and athletic potential.
Julander matched the criteria and became an integral component in the NWC wrestling machine. He plans to graduate from Northwest College in May and then transfer to Utah Valley State College in Orem. His collegiate wrestling success follows an outstanding high school career that included two state championships and an Outstanding Wrestler designation at the 2000 state tournament.
His parents are Christine and Delron Julander of Heber City.