P O W E L L, W y o. - Mountain View High School graduate Tyler Rhodes led the Northwest College Wrestling Team to the national championship and earned personal glory for himself with back-to-back national championships in the heavyweight divisions.
Wrestling at 285 pounds, Rhodes captained the NWC Trappers of Powell, Wyo., as they rewrote 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.
Rhodes figured prominently in that success story. He ended his NWC wrestling career as an All-American with the distinction of going undefeated two consecutive years in matches against junior college opponents.
"Tyler is our Trapper big man in every meaning of the word," coach Jim Zeigler said. "He's not just the team captain, he is the team leader and he brings confidence to our team. He does it though his competitive attitude and his belief in us. He also does it by example. When you watch him, it's motivating because he truly shows what it means to believe in yourself."
Zeigler said to wrap it up succinctly, Rhodes is "confident but very humble. He is the consummate wrestler. Tyler is the whole package. His work ethic, abilities, mental toughness, desire, along with his confidence, all come together to form this tremendous wrestler."
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 (sometimes twice-weekly) compulsory academic study halls for the whole team. He recruits young wrestlers on the basis of their character and team potential. When Zeigler selects a prospective wrestler, it's a holistic endorsement of all the attributes and qualities of the young man.
Because of this standard, Zeigler's characterization of Rhodes is all the more meaningful. "We all look at certain ingredients in our character and things that will make us better people and better wrestlers," Zeigler said. "Tyler seems to possess almost all of them at one time. Make no mistake, there's always room for improvement, but he is carrying a significant amount of every little quality that it takes."
Rhodes put all those qualities to work at the national tournament to declare the championship in four easy wins. In his last two matches, he stepped over wrestlers from California's Lassen College and North Idaho College (NIC). Rhodes sprang to the championship round in the Lassen match though a disqualification; he was leading 9-3 with 14 seconds left in the final period when the referee disqualified the other wrestler for stalling. Rhodes held steady and solid with a 4-1 decision in his final victory over number two ranked Israel Silva of NIC to claim the national title.
When he's not on the wrestling mat, Rhodes concentrates on physical education studies with the goal of teaching and coaching at the college level. After graduating from Northwest College in May, he'll transfer to a NCAA Division I school to finish his education. According to Zeigler, his possibilities at this point include Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, Boise State University, University of Nebraska and the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga.
"There's also an outside chance that our own University of Wyoming Cowboys will get a second chance to grab this Mountain View treasure," Zeigler said. Rhodes' collegiate success follows an outstanding high school career that included all-state football designation and two-time state and regional wrestling championships.
His parents are Glenda and John Rhodes of Mountain View.