Northwest College announced Tuesday that nearly every member of its wrestling team has been suspended for the remainder of its season due to a “severe weigh-in violation.”
The violation came as a result of 13 team members using an off-campus sauna on March 10, which is an illegal move while NJCAA and NCAA wrestling competition is in-season. In addition to the players, coach Jim Zeigler was also suspended. He has coached the team for 28 seasons.
The suspension is for eight matches, which extends through districts and nationals this season and into next year for returning players and Zeigler. This year’s team only had two sophomores.
“Northwest College is committed to NJCAA compliance, athletic excellence, and integrity – the College self-reported the situation to the NJCAA as soon as we became aware of it,” said interim president Lisa Watson. “It was disappointing to learn that our players and coach participated in an activity that violates the wrestling rulebook. We continue to work through the effects of the ruling and the path forward for our student athletes.”
Carey Miller, NWC communications and marketing director, said the school had been informed of the sanctions on March 17. That day, the team forfeited a road match it had scheduled with Western Wyoming. She said some team members mentioned the infraction to a staff athletic trainer, who immediately informed NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson. She said the school then self-reported it to the NJCAA.
“We’ve been in communication with the NJCAA, the coaches and the student athletes over the past several weeks and wanted to make sure we understood what occurred, why it occurred and what the sanctions would mean for our wrestling program now and into the future,” Miller said.
Miller said two team members were not sanctioned but opted to not continue their seasons individually. She said one of those players was a redshirt and the other declined the offer to have a former coach, who is now a Northwest staff member, coach them at districts April 3.
Miller said Northwest has conducted student interviews and has performed its own review of the investigation. She said the school is requesting a re-review of the decision and is asking the NJCAA for a reduction in the suspension’s length due to “insufficient or incomplete training on the policy.”
“The Northwest College Athletic Department makes every attempt to adhere to all NJCAA, Region IX, and institutional policies and procedures,” Erickson said. “We have very high expectations of our staff, coaches, and student athletes. As we continue the internal investigation of our wrestling program, we remain committed to improving methods and procedures that support student athlete safety and fair play.”
Since the players and Zeigler have missed three matches so far, they must sit out of their first five next year. A typical season has around 25 matches.
Prior to the suspension, Northwest had won three of its seven matches during the abbreviated COVID-19 season. In late January the Trappers earned back-to-back wins against Northeastern Junior College and Otero Junior College.
This season did not count toward the athletes’ eligibility in NJCAA play.