Continuing a tradition of excellence is of prime importance to Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler.
“We’d like to be at the top of our region and competing for spots in the national tournament,” Zeigler said.
The Trappers look to take off from where they left off last season, a year which produced one national champion and two other district champions.
Though Zeigler said he saw strong performances in the team’s 26-15 opening dual loss to Otero Community College on Nov. 9, he said the match was a wake-up for his young freshmen grapplers who have never competed at the collegiate level.
“Just being under the spotlight there, that’s tough,” Zeigler said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and they were kind of deer in the headlights there. That was disappointing.”
Zeigler said as the season progresses, freshmen typically learn to deal with the pressure of wrestling on a higher stage.
“It’s performance anxiety,” Zeigler said. “It’s a life challenge, not just a wrestling challenge. It’s something that you overcome, you move better in life from.”
Northwest does return five sophomores including 2018 national participant Palmer Schafer. The 141-pound wrestler is already off to a strong start with a pin and second-place finish in the Northwest Open tournament on Nov. 10.
“He’s in the mix, he’s nationally ranked,” Zeigler said. “We feel like he’s got a chance to do good things.”
Their roster also continues the team’s connection with Uzbekistan, as Boburjon Berdiyorov and Majid Muratov both hail from the central Asia country. Beridiyorov’s cousin Nodir Safarov was a 2018 NJCAA national champion for Northwest in the 125-pound weight class.
Safarov now trains at a regional training center at the University of Iowa. At 25 years old he is ineligible to compete in NCAA wrestling, so he is narrowing his sight on the 2020 summer Olympics, where he will likely represent Uzbekistan.
“He’s competing with their (University of Iowa) post-graduates who are also training for world and Olympic teams,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler said if Safarov qualifies, he will be the first Northwest College Olympian.
Back in Powell, the Trappers will have a few more tune-up matches before getting to the heart of their schedule in January and February.
“My expectation is we go there and just compete real hard,” Zeigler said. “Get game experience, get valuable experience.”
Northwest faced a tough challenge against a few four-year schools in the Battle of the Rockies Duals in Great Falls, Mont., last weekend. The Trappers compete at home Saturday at 6 p.m. against the University of Providence. They will host their annual Apodaca Dual Showdown on Feb. 1-2, a critical tournament with seeding implications on the line for district competitions two weeks later.