Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler may not have a team that will win a national championship this year, but he does have a few grapplers that are in contention for that prize as individuals.
“We’re really trying to gear the team towards a high tournament finish,” Zeigler said.
Three Trappers are currently ranked top 10 in the nation for their respective weight classes.
Brady Lowry leads the pack as the No. 4 wrestler in the 149 class with a 15-2 record. Lowry won both the Cowboy Open in Laramie and Northwest Open earlier this season.
Majid Muratov, a native of Uzbekistan, is the top ranked wrestler in the 197 class. He has already beaten the prior No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers in the nation this year. During a Dec. 18 road dual with Western Wyoming, Muratov took down top-ranked Tucker Tomlinson in a third overtime sudden victory.
Van Bray has also been gaining attention for his efforts in both the 133 and 141 weight classes, posting a 15-4 record. He is currently ranked ninth in 133.
“He’s a pretty good sized kid and I’m trying to get him to move up to 141,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler said his team’s biggest weakness is depth. Unlike other sports like basketball where a top-heavy cast can still lead a team to success, three high-level wrestlers won’t cut it when it comes to filling spots in 10 different weight classes.
“Wrestling is such a physical sport,” Zeigler said. “If Tua (Tagovailoa) gets hurt here, there’s no one to fill his spot with less of a supporting cast.”
Because of such he plans to focus on individual performances and development in preparation for nationals, where he thinks the Trappers can really shine.
“That’s the choice you have to make,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler mentioned his 2016-2017 team, a group that was solid from top-to-bottom and won many duals with no all-stars on the team, as an example of how depth doesn’t necessarily pay off at nationals, where scoring is done differently than a regular season dual meet.
“They didn’t score a lot of points,” he said.
He also said even though they are not quite there yet, about three or four more of his grapplers could be in national finalist contention by the NJCAA National Championships in March.
On Dec. 18, the Trappers gave the No. 1 team in the nation, Western Wyoming, a strong fight, as Devyn Mosteller, Lowry and Muratov all won matches. Yet the team still lost 35-13.
“We’re not happy with that particularly,” Zeigler said. “Losing to Western Wyoming is not the natural order of things.”
The No. 8 ranked Trappers have been training hard since returning from the holiday break on Jan. 2. The team went 1-4 at the Northeast Oklahoma Duals last weekend with a 41-12 win over No. 22 Colby Community College. Northwest will head to Sterling, Colo. this weekend to dual with Northeastern Junior College and Cloud County Community College.
“We’re just trying to win the matches in front of us,” Zeigler said. “We may be conceding losses but we’re looking at individual points and hoping that will add up by the end of the season.”