A father’s flashback is the connection that led Brian and Javier Benevidez from Porterville, California, to cast their lot with the Northwest College wrestling program.
Jim Zeigler, head wrestling coach at NWC, announced the brothers’ commitment this week.
The story of how two brothers from the Central Valley of California are ending up in northwest Wyoming moves through Great Falls, Montana.
The Benevidez brothers’ father — a youth wrestling coach who coached them as kids — wrestled at what is now the University of Providence in Great Falls, competed against NWC “and thought of us” as a junior college wrestling program for his sons, Zeigler said..
Contact was made, and wrestling videos of the brothers were sent to the Trapper coach.
“They’re really hungry,” for the opportunity, Zeigler said. “Their coach had even filled out all the paperwork and gotten approval for WUE [Western Undergraduate Exchange].”
WUE is a compact in western states with reciprocal tuition agreements.
The two will compete in the lower weights for NWC. Brian will wrestle at 125 pounds and Javier at 133 pounds, Zeigler said. The brothers are 10 months apart, in the same grade, with Javier the older of the two.
California has its own junior college system, but its schools do not participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“When you compete in a California junior college, kids can essentially go for free as an extension of the state school system. But their wrestling is a short season, only about two months,” Zeigler said. “Kids want exposure. They’re seeking junior colleges outside California. It costs money, but the upside is they might get discovered by a four-year school.”
The quality of high school wrestling in California is very good and very competitive, Zeigler said.
“I went out a few years ago to the California state high school wrestling tournament, and it is really an impressive event,” he said.
Both Benevidez brothers qualified for the state tournament, and that in itself is an achievement, Zeigler said. Brian went 2-2 in the state tournament, but didn’t place.
Their decision to enter NWC in the fall follows the earlier commitment of Powell High School wrestler Bo Dearcorn, who finished second in the 3A state wrestling tournament at 170 pounds.
Zeigler hopes to announce additional commitments soon.