Northwest College honored student athletes on the soccer, basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams for accomplishments in both academics and athletics at Tuesday night’s Trapper Athletic Awards Ceremony.
Two Powell High School alumni — Matthew Widdicombe and Kelsey Marchant — were recognized for their achievements with the Trapper of the Year award.
The honor is given to one male and one female student-athlete at NWC who demonstrate excellence in the areas of academics, citizenship, leadership and athletic performance. Coaches nominate athletes and then a committee chooses the winners.
Widdicombe, a physical education and elementary education major, said the award “shows my hard work has paid off. I’m not the only one who sees it.”
“People in the community can see what hard work can do,” he said.
During Widdicombe’s three years at NWC, he’s completed 85 credit hours with a 3.43 cumulative GPA. While a member of the NWC wrestling team, he won the Apodaca Award, the regional championship at 174 pounds and qualified for the national tournament.
As he prepares to graduate from NWC in May, he’s currently deciding where to continue his education and debating whether to continue his wrestling career.
For her part, Marchant said it feels “really good and really humbling” to win the Trapper of the Year award.
“I’ve always worked really hard for what I do and for my team and everything and it’s really nice to be recognized for that,” she said.
Marchant majored in physical education and played for the volleyball team at NWC; she’s still considering her options as to where to continue her volleyball career.
“It’s a huge honor knowing that I’ll be a part of Trapper history forever; it’s really, really exciting,” Marchant said.
The recipients of the Trapper of the Year award — as well as the Athlete of the Year award — have their names engraved on a plaque that’s hung at NWC.
The Athlete of the Year award was presented to Ryan Tyrer and Lauga Gauta.
Tyrer played on the NWC men’s soccer team and was the first freshman that head coach Rob Hill ever made a captain. Tyrer was described as the first player to show up and the last to leave.
The business administration major from Liverpool, UK, said he “tried hard all season to do the best I can, and obviously it has paid off.”
Tyrer is currently looking at offers from Division I schools to continue his soccer career.
Gauta has had an award-winning career as a volleyball player at NWC. The awards and recognitions she amassed this season include not only the Athlete of the Year award but also recognition as an NJCAA National Player of the Week, Region IX Player of the Year, All Conference Player of the Year, NJCAA Division I first-team All-American and American Volleyball Coaches Association first team All-American — an honor that comes out of all two-year colleges in the nation.
“Honestly I’m just blessed and I can’t thank [NWC head volleyball coach] Shaun Pohlman enough for the experience I’ve had these two years here at Northwest,” Gauta said. “But I’m just overwhelmed and thankful for everyone here in this community in general and this school.”
She also thanked God, her parents and family in California and her teammates — especially Jelena Slijepcevic, who she said kept her going these last two years.
Gauta is one of seven NWC volleyball players who will continue their volleyball careers after graduating in May. Two more volleyball players are still deciding on where to play.
The Lady Trappers won their third consecutive regular conference title, won a four-peat Region IX title and finished sixth in the nation last season.
Mikayla Sellers-Wiebe, Olivia Jarvis, Lauryn Dela Cruz, Maliyah Tela and Gauta made the Wyoming Community College athletics team. Tela, Gauta and Dela Cruz also made the All-Region IX North team and SellersWiebe, Gauta, Dela Cruz, and Slijepcevic made the Region IX All-Tournament team. Tela won the Setter of the Year award.
The success on the court came by way of 7 a.m. practices every day, no sugar or pop, three-hour team meetings and sleeping when other students were socializing.
But the volleyball team didn’t just have success on the court: it also maintained a 3.7 cumulative GPA last fall.
Pohlman said his team stepped up when they needed to.
When it comes to greatness in Trapper athletics and Trapper volleyball, “it takes what it takes,” he said, “And with our program, you’re either a Trapper volleyball player or you’re not — and these ladies are. And once a Trapper ...”
“Always a Trapper,” the entire volleyball team said in unison.
NWC head wrestling coach Jim Zeigler was the next coach to speak about his student-athletes, calling his wrestling team “a fantastic crew” that similarly “do whatever it takes, exactly what it takes.”
Zeigler reflected back on the season, noting that when the weather was 15-20 below zero in January, the wrestling team walked to practice each day in the 2-3 feet of snow — and nobody was late.
“Nobody’s shows up late, ever, and I can walk in at 6:15 a.m. and practice starts at 6:30 a.m. and I’m the last guy there. We can get up for weigh-ins in the morning and we’re going to leave for the gym at 5:30 a.m. and I can get out to the gym at 5:20 a.m. and I’m the last guy on the bus,” the coach said.
Zeigler said his team showed a tremendous amount of discipline, doing exactly what it took to win a regional championship.
“We set our goals real high, academics are important to us, we set it right there with any goal we have. We have academics right there,” said Zeigler.
Out of 21 wrestlers on the team, 17 had over a 3.0 GPA with a cumulative team total of 3.2 last fall. Twelve wrestlers will graduate — the most of any sports team at NWC.
On the mat, five wrestlers won regional titles — Widdicombe, Riley Loveless, Jeffrey Oakes, Lisiate Anau and Justin Polkowske — and nine wrestlers qualified for the national tournament. Two finished as All-American, with Oakes placing sixth and Anau fourth.
The team also went 15-3 in duals, with its only losses coming from Iowa Central and Clackamas, who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation.
Zeigler said NWC has a culture that strives for excellence not only in athletics but in academics as well.
“How do we have a 3.2 GPA across the board and have the lowest team [GPA]?” he asked. “That’s culture. That means we are the best here.”
The NWC women’s basketball team not only posted the highest team GPA at the college for the 2015-16 year, but also topped the nation, with a total of 3.575.
On the court, Dani McManamen won Region IX all-defensive team and Julynne Silva made the all-tournament team.
Players voted on two awards: most improved went to Mattie Creager, who also tied with Maddy Johnson for the attitude and effort award. The attitude and effort award goes to the player who comes to practices with the best attitude and always gives 100 percent.
Johnson and Jessica Lohrenz — who’s planning to play basketball for the South Dakota School of Mines — won Outstanding Student Awards.
NWC head women’s basketball coach Janis Beal thanked her sophomores “for helping to build the program to where we are at.” Beal hopes to continue the success, with nine returning players.
“I look forward to the future, but I appreciate all these girls do and I’ve enjoyed this year and we look for great things next year,” she said.
On the men’s side of basketball, head coach Brian Erickson was excited to announce that nine out of nine players who will be leaving the program will also be graduating in May.
Those graduates included Powell natives Marshall McArthur and Carter Baxter, who also won Outstanding Student Awards in their respective programs.
Erickson went on to explain the adversity the team had to overcome this season not only on the court but in the player’s personal and coaches lives as well. Three members on the team, coaching staff included, lost a parent this season.
“We had a lot of it [adversity], and I grew a lot as a person, as coach because of it, because of this group,” Erickson said, adding, “We fought everyday, this group was unbelievable ... I think it took every one of us to help us each through it.”
Erickson said he’s “proud of every one of you, grateful for who you guys are as people.”
Erickson said he believed student assistant coach Robbie Nowak — who’s overcome a great deal of personal adversity — had an impact on everyone on the team.
When it came time to announce the student-athletes of the NWC men’s basketball team, Erickson turned things over to Nowak.
“I don’t think I deserve to announce these guys,” Erickson said. “Robbie, I think you are the only one who deserves to announce these guys.”
NWC president Stefani Hicswa started the night with a speech to the student-athletes.
“I say student-athlete because, although you play an important role on campus as an athlete, you are a student first. I talked to many of you one-on-one and in small groups about the challenges of keeping up your course work with your grueling travel schedules not to mention your practice schedules and your workout schedules,” Hicswa said. “I want to tell you how pleased I am with your performance this year in your individual sports as well as in the classroom. Congratulations to all of you.”