Anau And Oakes Make All-American
It wasn’t the finish they’d hoped for, but the Northwest Trapper wrestling team took 12th place at last weekend’s NJCAA National Championships and had two wrestlers make it onto the podium with All-American recognition. Lisiate Anau finished fourth at 285 pounds and Jeffrey Oakes, at 197 pounds, finished sixth at the national competition in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“It’s been a hard season, long season — the kids have worked extremely hard,” said NWC head coach Jim Zeigler. “It was disappointing on Friday night to not have more kids get through. It felt like they didn’t get to see the true fruits of their labor by being on that podium.”
Five of the nine NWC wrestlers had advanced to Friday night’s quarterfinals: Riley Loveless at 141 pounds, Justin Polkowske at 157 pounds, Matthew Widdicombe at 174 pounds and Oakes and Anau. However, Anau was the only wrestler to win his match and continue on to the semi-finals.
“He’s a kid that continued to get better and grow throughout the year,” Zeigler said of Anau.
Anua lost a 3-1 decision to No. 1 ranked Thomas Peterson of Iowa Central in the semi-finals, then bounced back by winning the consolation semi-final round with a pin in 4:43.
In the third-place match, Odgerek Batkhishig of Northwest Kansas avenged a previous loss to Anau at the Rocky Mountain District National Qualifier Tournament, taking an 8-5 decision.
“He (Anau) wrestled tough; he wrestled a good tournament,” said Zeigler. “It’s a good accomplishment for him to get to the top and get on the podium and become All-American as a freshman. He had a good campaign.”
The top five placers in each weight class earn All-American status, while the sixth through eighth place finishers become honorable mention All-Americans.
Jeffrey Oakes, after losing in the quarterfinals, wrestled back in the consolation bracket — winning by a pin in 6:38 and a 3-1 decision — to make the consolation semi-finals.
Oakes lost a 10-5 decision in the semis, then a 5-3 decision in the fifth place match to finish sixth.
Coach Zeigler said Oakes — who is also a freshman — “continued to grow throughout the year; I think he’s getting better all the time.”
Zeigler said he was happy for both Anua and Oakes.
“That’s a great way to start,” the coach said of the first years. “That gives them an opportunity to move up the ladder next year and possibly be national champions, is our hope.”
As for the other seven Trapper wrestlers who competed at nationals — which also included Taylor Jeffries at 133 pounds, Cameron Braden at 157 pounds, Andrew VonRein at 165 pounds and Heber Shepherd at 184 pounds — Zeigler said they wrestled well.
“I think the national tournament and the big stage was difficult for all of them. I think that they had a difficult time summoning the courage that it takes to take a chance and that’s not uncommon. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not uncommon,” said Zeigler. “And I think that they carried anxieties going in, and no matter what you do, what you say, you can’t ease those things by talking to them. It’s something they have to experience; they have to know.”
The coach said his immediate thought about the tournament was disappointment, but “upon reflection, we have many things to be happy and proud about.”
Some of those things included winning the district title, having five district champions, winning the Rocky Mountain District outstanding wrestler award, amassing a 14-3 dual record and graduating a record number of wrestlers. Eleven wrestlers will be graduating with degrees.
“Real proud of the kids,” Zeigler said. “Like I said, it (a national title) is something you want real bad, but upon reflection, you realize you’ve accomplished a lot of other things and that’s just one of our goals here. It’s the one that seems to be on the forefront all the time, but it’s only one thing.”
“Through the sport and through this program, there’s ... a lot of life lessons that you learn through wrestling, especially coming through this program with the discipline and everything,” added assistant coach Mak Jones. “For example, if you’re five minutes early, you’re late. Just things like that — that’s going to go on and make you a better person.”
Zeigler said assistant coach Cody Vichi and Jones “both know how hard it is and I think there’s a feeling of accomplishment, just making it through this program.”
“It’s hard and I don’t make it easy for them,” Zeigler said.
Vichi finished his career as a Trapper in 2014, placing fourth in the nation at 125 pounds.
Coach Zeigler added that the season is not over, with the final evaluation being graduation day.
Individual overall records
133 lb. Taylor Jeffries 2-2-0
141 lb. Riley Loveless 2-2-0
149 lb. Justin Polkowske 2-2-0
157 lb. Cameron Braden 3-2-0
165 lb. Andrew VonRein 0-2-0
174 lb. Matthew Widdicombe 1-2-1
184 lb. Heber Shepherd 1-2-1
197 lb. Jeffrey Oakes 3-3-1
285 lb. Lisiate Anau 4-2-0