On Friday, the Northwest College Trapper wrestling team hosted the 20th Annual Apodaca Dual Showdown. The event honors the life of Christopher “Brooks” Apodaca, a beloved student athlete whose life tragically ended in a crash in the spring of 1998.
As part of the annual celebration, a member of the NWC wrestling team is presented with the Apodaca Award in recognition of excellence in academics, wrestling, social and civic awareness and leadership — all qualities Brooks Apodaca portrayed.
The 2018 Apodaca Award went to NWC sophomore Jeff Oakes of Battle Mountain, Nevada.
Head wrestling coach Jim Zeigler said Oakes “has a great work ethic on and off the mat and is a model representative of the program.”
“Although he does not share the quiet nature of Brooks Apodaca, he definitely has the heart of a champion like Brooks. When it comes to our team, everyone knows that he is 100 percent reliable,” Zeigler said of Oakes. “He sets the tone for others to follow with his enthusiasm for every day and every workout. He is always willing to volunteer his services for team, friends and community. His discipline, determination and toughness is an inspiration to the athletes and the coaches.”
Oakes is currently ranked second in the nation in his weight class — and the scholar-athlete is set to graduate from NWC in May with a degree and a certificate in welding.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Oakes said of winning the award, adding, “Every day I work hard with all the challenges I go through in my life.”
One of the challenges that Oakes faces, is being a first-time parent. Oakes and his wife Mackenzie just had their first child about three weeks ago, a daughter named Delanie.
“It’s crazy being first parents,” said Oakes. “I don’t get much sleep and neither does my wife, but we sleep when we can.”
Oakes added that Mackenzie helps out a lot so he can continue staying on top of his 14 credits, where he currently has all A’s.
Last semester, Oakes had a 3.3 GPA and he’s averaged a 3.3-3.4 GPA throughout his career at NWC.
When Oakes receives an associate’s degree this spring, “I will be the first person in my family to ever graduate in college, or anything after high school,” he said. “Pretty excited about that.”
Oakes said he also “builds bumpers and stuff on the side so we can stay in school and eat. I do custom work like that just so I can stay in school and raise a child.”
In high school, Oakes was a two-time all-American and three-time state champion.
“Last year, when I got to college, it was kind of shell shock cause we were kind of a smaller league in high school,” Oakes said. “So when I got to wrestling at a collegiate level, it really opened my eyes and I needed to learn a lot. It was just a real eye-opener last year.”
Oakes finished sixth in the nation at 197 pounds last season with the Trappers and is wrestling at 184 pounds this season. His goal is to be a national champion.
“It’s a great program,” Oakes said NWC wrestling. “I’ve learned a lot from him [Zeigler]. He’s a really great guy, a great coach and will help you out. I’ve stayed disciplined and try to help him by working as hard as I can.”
After NWC, Oakes is looking at wrestling for MSU-Northern in Havre, Montana, where he really likes the coaches.
“It seems like I can learn a lot there,” Oakes said.