Seven To Represent Northwest At Nationals
The Northwest College wrestling team competed in the Rocky Mountain District Championships in Rock Springs Saturday, placing second as a team with three first place finishers, four second place finishers and a third place finish.
Head coach Jim Zeigler said that as a whole the tournament was a “little bit of different,” this year — meaning not as many teams competed.
Last year, five teams competed in the Rocky Mountain District Championships; this year there were only three. Western Wyoming Community College took first with 99.5 points, Northwest College followed with 77 and Northeastern Junior College took third with 63 points.
“It’s a little bitter taking second; I don’t like it,” Zeigler said. The coach added that “everyone finished exactly where they were seeded. So for our guys that were seeded first, there was not disappointments.”
The seven Trapppers who placed first and second will advance to the NJCAA National Tournament in Iowa later this month.
The champions were Nodir Safarov at 125 pounds, Tate Allison at 157 pounds and Lisiate Anau at 285 pounds.
Safarov, a freshman from Bekabad City, Uzbekistan, won the 125-pound championship match by a 22-7 technical fall over Jaxon Cole of Western Wyoming.
“I feel so excited,” Safarov said, “I appreciate my team and my coaches — Jim Zeigler, Cody [Vichi] and Mak [Jones] — and my whole wrestling team. I am very excited to represent Northwest College and to be national champ.”
Safarov is currently ranked second in the nation at 125 pounds.
Allison is a redshirt freshman from Moorcroft and beat Deron Solomon of Northeastern Junior College for the 157-pound championship title by a 6-1 decision.
Allison said winning the title at the Rocky Mountain District Championships was “pretty exciting,” and added that he is “excited for nationals.”
“It should be fun,” he said.
Allison is currently ranked seventh in the nation.
Anau, a sophomore from Pocatello, Idaho, won the 285-pound championship for the second year in a row.
Of the back-to-back Rocky Mountain District Championships, Anau said it “feels great to represent my team; it’s a great program.”
Anau won the championship match by a 16-1 tech fall over Western’s Shane French. Last season, Anau placed fourth at the national tournament.
As for this year, he said he is “just happy to go back to nationals and [will] do my best and hopefully win it this time.”
Anau is currently ranked third in the NJCAA.
SECOND PLACE FINISHERS
The Trappers had four second-place finishers, all of whom were selected to represent Northwest College at the national tournament as wildcards.
Taylor Jeffries, a sophomore from Gillette, wrestles at 133 pounds.
In the semi-final round, Jeffries beat Paul Cooksey by a 14-3 major decision to advance to the championship. There, Jeffries lost to Ricky Navarrete of Western by a 4-3 decision.
Jeffries said his goal at the national tournament this year “is to get on the podium — not lose in the round 12 again.” As a freshman last year, he was one round away from making the podium.
Jeffries added that he is “definitely more focused this year than I was last year. I know what to expect going into the national tournament and definitely feel like I prepared myself better this year than last year.”
Palmer Schafer, a freshman from Lander, wrestles at 141 pounds.
In the semi-final bout, he won by a pin in 3:59 over Jake Thompson of Western; in the championship match, Schafer was pinned by Sam Erckhart of Northeastern in 6:37.
“I’m very excited to go to nationals as a freshman,” Schafer said “I’ve gained a lot of confidence the last couple of weeks going in and I feel like I’ve been wrestling a lot better and hopefully I’ll make some surprises and do good at the national tournament.”
Powell’s Nic Urbach, a redshirt freshman, finished second at 149 pounds.
In Rock Springs, Urbach pinned Ernest Quintana of Northeastern in 1:43 to advance to the championship round.
For the championship title, Urbach faced off against Kenny Astle of Western, currently ranked second in the nation, and lost by a pin in 1:15.
As for Urbach’s first trip to the national championships, “it’s exciting,” he said. “Everything these last two [years] has pretty much come down to this.”
Jeff Oakes, a sophomore from Battle Mountain, Nevada, won by a 4-0 decision in the 184-pound semi-final match over Jose Rodgriquez of Northeastern.
In the championship match, Oakes faced off against Connor Kirkland for the second time this year and lost by a 12-5 decision.
“[I] was pretty upset about that, cause I thought I prepared well enough,” Oakes said of his loss. He’d been preparing to face Kirkland at the district championships after the first loss on Jan. 26.
Kirkland is currently ranked third in the nation and Oakes fourth.
Oakes took sixth last season at the national tournament and said he plans on placing higher this time.
“I’ve been working for it and I plan on being a national champ,” said Oakes. “I’ve got to beat some kids that are ranked higher than me so I’m excited to go and have the coaches go.”
Logan Soundrup, a freshman from Manti, Utah, took third at 165 pounds.