Trapper Program Places Co-Emphasis on Academics
Northwest College’s wrestlers will kick off their 2016-17 season on Friday, being among some 30 teams competing in the 39th annual Cowboy Open in Laramie.
The Cowboy Open has become the major kick-off event for the wrestling season since moving to the first weekend of competition. Wrestlers can compete in two divisions: amateur and elite.
The same schools compete in both divisions. The elite division is primarily a competition among Division I and Division II starters while the amateur division will consist of the freshmen and sophomores of the Division I and Division II schools and teams from the NIAI and NJCAA.
Northwest will be competing in the amateur division.
“Their guys that aren’t starting, that are in the amateur division, are good match-ups for us,” said Jim Zeigler, NWC head wrestling coach.
Some of the teams expected to be competing in the Cowboy Open are: the University of Wyoming, Boise State, Air Force and Utah Valley in Division I, Colorado Mesa, Chadron and CSU-Pueblo in Division II and Montana State Northern and University of Great Falls of the NIAI. The only Wyoming teams from the NJCAA competing will be NWC and Western Wyoming.
At least 10 mats will be running at one time, but up to 12 is possible. The Cowboy Open starts at 9 a.m. in the old fieldhouse on the University of Wyoming Campus.
Northwest has 24 wrestlers on its roster, with 13 returners.
“Not really a young team, (but) we are a less experienced team,” said Zeigler, who’s in his 22nd year as NWC’s head wrestling coach. “Even though we have a lot of sophomores, a lot of those guys don’t have a ton of experience in college wrestling.”
Last year, some of this year’s sophomores were injured, redshirted or weren’t in the starting line-up. Those wrestlers are now moving up the ladder. The wrestlers who did get some experience last year are looking to win 70-80 percent of their matches, versus the 50-60 percent from last year.
Northwest will have its first of two home events on Nov. 19, the NWC Open.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals take place on Jan. 5 and 6 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At that event, all of the NJCAA teams will compete. A bracket will be set up in which the entire team — rather than an individual wrestler — either advances or goes into the consolation bracket. That’s based on the team’s win or loss in a dual.
The No. 1 team in the nation last year takes the No. 1 spot in that bracket, and will wrestle the last place team. The No. 2 team will wrestle the second-to-last team, and so on.
The Apodaca Dual Showdown, Jan. 27 and 28, is Northwest’s second and last home event of the wrestling season. At this dual event, it is not uncommon to have four of the top five schools in the nation competing. Iowa Central, who was second in the nation last year, usually comes to compete each year.
The NJCAA Rocky Mountain District tournament takes place on Feb. 11, with the NJCAA National Championships on Feb. 24- 25 in Iowa.
Zeigler’s goal for this year’s team is “specifically to be where we have been as a program in the past.”
Northwest has typically been in the top 10 nationally, being in the top five in the stronger competitive years.
But along with being ranked nationally, the goal is to also be the Academic National Championship team.
“We want to be the best program across the board in the country,” said Zeigler.
This translates to having a 3.0 or better average GPA, a high average number of kids placing at the national tournament and having general success in terms of the number of wrestlers who graduate and who move on to the next level, both in education and athletics.
“We want to be a clear stand-out there,” said Zeigler. “That’s our goal, so day by day we just try to be the best team and student athletes that we can be.”