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Brackets Set for 2013 NJCAA Wrestling Championship
 February 18, 2013

NJCAA National Wrestling Preview: Cardinals are favored to win the title

Cover Photo: Returning Labette All-American for 2013 Devin Aguirre

Story and Photo by John Johnson

There will be numerous Cardinals descending on Des Moines, Iowa’s Jacobson Exhibition Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Feb. 22-23, 2013.   Not to hold a conclave to select a new leader of a church, rather these Cardinals will be meeting to determine who will be crowned the NJCAA National Wrestling Champions!

The NCAA Division III Championships have had over numerous years what has been termed the “Battle of the “Burg’s” for the team title between Augsburg and Wartburg.  The 2013 NJCAA Wrestling Championships could be termed “Battle of the Birds,” as the top two teams favored to take the title are the Cardinals of Labette (Kansas) and North Idaho.  Labette, under the direction of coach Joe Renfro is looking to take his Cardinals to Des Moines and defend the title they won last year in Rochester, MN.  Besides being the defending champions, Labette is also ranked second in the nation heading into the championship finals, and are the NWCA National Dual Champions.  Pat Whitcomb and his Cardinals from North Idaho are currently ranked first in the nation and are hungry to reclaim a title that they have not owed since 2003.  

A total of six schools will be bringing the maximum number of wrestlers, which is 10, one per weight class, in quest to claim the NJCAA title.  It is interesting t note that the six teams that are bringing all ten wrestlers are also the same six teams who were crowned district champions.  Those schools with full teams are North Idaho College (Idaho) ranked 1st, Labette Community College (Kansas) ranked 2nd, Nassau Community College (New York) ranked 5th, Ellsworth Community College (Iowa) ranked 6th, Niagara County C.C. (New YORK) ranked 8th, and Lincoln College (Illinois) who are currently unranked, but were ranked 19th in the previous NJCAA coaches poll. 

Other teams that could make a run for the title include 3rd ranked Northwest College with 7 qualifiers, 2011 champions Clackamas ranked 4th, 7th ranked Colby, and 10th ranked Ridgewater, all with eight qualifiers.  There are numerous other teams with 9 qualifiers who will have a say in the national title, including four Iowa teams.  Iowa Central, Iowa Lakes, Iowa Western, and North Iowa Area Community Colleges have nine qualifiers and their home state to help them battle to the top at the NJCAA’s.

Any of these teams with seven, eight, nine, or ten qualifiers could be considered contenders for the title if they have a good run at nationals, but the pure balance and strength of North Idaho and Labette make them the strong contenders to fly away with the tile in Des Moines.

What makes North Idaho and Labette such strong contenders prior to the tournament?  Tradition, coaching, returning all-Americans, and the maximum qualifiers put the two Cardinal teams at the top as title contenders.  North Idaho College enters the tournament with the national record for most national team titles (13), and most individual champions (51), 33 Top 3 finishes in the NJCAA team race, and 209 NJCAA All-Americans.  When you couple the fact of NIC’s history with the fact that they have ten qualifiers, five returning all-American’s, and eight wrestlers ranked in the top 4 nationally, the Cardinals from Idaho look like the team to beat.  NIC’s strength comes from 125-pounder Brock Banta who is ranked 3rd; (133) Mike Carreon who was 4th in 2012, is currently ranked 2nd; (141) Jarrett Morrill 8th in 2012, is ranked 7th; 149 Jeremy Golding is ranked first; (157) Nico Moreno is ranked 4th; 165 Ryan Zumwalt 3rd at 157 in 2012; 174 Kyle Sweedman 2nd in 2012, and currently ranked 2nd; 184 Caleb Rivera 7th in 2012, is ranked, 197 V.J. Giulio is ranked number one; and Curtis Berger (Hwt) is not currently rated.

But Pat Whitcomb is a veteran coach and knows a lot can happen at a national tournament and he is not ready to make claim to the title, all though it is a goal.  Coach Whitcomb stated that, "The National tournament will be a great one again this year.  Joe (Renfro) always has his Labette team wrestling their best at the end of the year, as I am sure he will again.  It will take a great effort for a team to dethrone the defending NJCAA Champions."

Labette Community College won their fourth straight regional championship with 125.5 points to easily outdistance runner-up Colby Community College with 73 points. Labette was ranked second in the latest team rankings, while Colby was ranked seventh. Both of these teams met in the NWCA National Dual meet championship finals with Labette winning handily. Other top twenty teams in this region were Neosho 15 and Pratt 20.

As the defending national champions, Joe Renfro and the Cardinals of Labette (KS) know what it takes to win a title and they want to repeat.  Labette showed why they are the legitimate number one and two teams in the NJCAA and why they have an equal claim to the 2013 title as the Cardinals won the West Central Region with 8 finals, three district champions, and 10 national qualifiers.  Labette also returns four all-Americans including returning national champion Devin Aguirre who won the title at 157-pounds in 2012.  Aguirre is up a weight class to 165 and is ranked 2nd behind Chris Schimek of Niagara who was a finalist at 165 last year.  Labette’s other three AA’s include runner-up Trey Page, Eric Hughes (ranked 5th) and Jeromy Davenport also ranked 5th.  Labette has eight wrestlers ranked in the top six in the nation, combined with four returning all-American’s, make them the biggest threat to the top ranked North Idaho team and a legitimate threat to repeat as NJCAA champions.

A total of 251 wrestlers representing 40 community colleges across the country will be in Des Moines, to compete in the NJCAA national wrestling tournament Feb. 22nd and 23rd, at the Jacobsen Center. Action begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22, with the first round of matches, and concludes Saturday evening at 6 p.m. with the NJCAA awards, parade of champions, followed by the championship finals, and team awards.

Additional Information/Links
- NJCAA Wrestling Championship Website

- Official Brackets - 125 lbs -- 133 lbs -- 141 lbs -- 149 lbs -- 157 lbs -- 165 lbs -- 174 lbs -- 184 lbs -- 197 lbs -- HWT

- National Finals can be seen live Saturday night on NJCAA TV

- Distirct Wrestling Results


West District:  North Idaho had six individual champions and won the team title by a 136 1/2-113 1/2 margin over the two-time defending regional champion Cougars, who qualified eight wrestlers for the Feb. 21-23 NJCAA National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Clackamas won the national title in 2011. Oregon City, Ore. - On the way to returning the Region 18 wrestling team title to Coeur d'Alene, North Idaho College qualified all 10 of it's wrestlers for the NJCAA national tournament. Brock Banta (125 lbs), Michael Carreon (133), Jeremy Golding(149), Ryan Zumwalt (165), and V.J. Guilio (197) all won their weight class. The Cardinals also had 3 second place and 2 third place finishes to help them win the team title by 23 points. Clackamas finished in second place.

Clackamas Community College's Trent Noon and Jacob Mitchell won individual titles to pace the host Cougars of Oregon City to a second-place finish at Saturday's NJCAA Region XVIII wrestling championships.  Noon scored a takedown in overtime for a 3-1 victory over North Idaho's Kyle Sweedman to win the 174-pound class, while Mitchell captured the heavyweight title with a 10-2 decision over Western Wyoming's Mike Williams.

NJCAA (Region 6) West Central District Recap: Labette Community College won their fourth straight regional championship with 125.5 points to easily outdistance runner-up Colby Community College with 73 points. Labette was ranked second in the latest team rankings, while Colby was ranked seventh. Both of these teams met in the NWCA National Dual meet championship finals with Labette winning handily. Other top twenty teams in this region were Neosho 15 and Pratt 20. Three wrestlers won their second consecutive regional titles; Le’Roy Barnes (133) Neosho, Devin Aguirre (165) Labette, and Trey Page (285) Labette. There were nine returning All-Americans from 2012 advancing to the National Tournament including 2012 National Champion Devin Aguirre, runner-up Trey Page, Eric Hughes (5th) and Jeromy Davenport ( 5th) from Labette; Josh Martinez (8th), Bryce Lewis (4th), and Dylan Braun (6th) from Colby; Landon Keiswette (5th) from Pratt; and Le’Roy Barnes (3rd) from Neosho.  Region 6 Coach of the Year was Paul Gomez from Northwest Tech, Goodland, Kansas. His team scored 37 points to finish fifth in the region.  With nine returning All-Americans the West Central Region 6 total matches the number of returning All-Americans from the West Region 18. Both of these regions include many of the top teams that will contend for the national title.

North Central District @ Willmar, MN:  The Ellsworth Community College wrestling team earned the title of North Central District Champions following Sunday’s regional tournament in Wilmar, Minnesota. ECC wrestlers tallied 110 points to win the title over Iowa Western (105.5), Rochester (99.5), Iowa Lakes (86), Iowa Central (84.5), MIACC (84), Ridgewater (83), MN West (32), and Itasca Community College (26.5). As a result, 10 ECC wrestlers will compete at the National Tournament Feb. 22-23 in Des Moines.
“We wrestled!” exclaimed Head Coach Cole Spree. “We did what we’ve been working on all year long. I told them if we take care of ourselves and take care of what each one of us can control, things will happen the way they are supposed to happen. I am proud of the wrestlers; any time you can get every weight class through, you know you wrestled well. They deserve to go to the National Tournament because yesterday they did what they had to secure their spot. With this performance we were able to win the District title, which I do not believe has happened in a long time for Ellsworth. The guys knew this and wanted to bring the title back. Each one of them is proud of Ellsworth Community College … this is something they will remember for a long time.”
Coach Spree also commented on several individual performances. “We had four finalists and three champs. Anytime you can almost get half of your weights in the finals in one of the toughest regions in the nation, you have to be happy. Da’Wayne Robertson was on a mission all day. He is a winner; he knew what it was going to take for him to get the job done, and he did it. All year we have known he is one of the top kids in the nation and yesterday he showed why. Eric Franklin is a neat story overall. He’s a kid who really wasn’t a top recruit coming out of high school because he had only wrestled a of couple years. He came in at the beginning of the year and struggled, but just kept working and now has become one of the most dominant wrestlers in his weight class. He flat out dominated yesterday and I think the scores show that. Josh DaSilveira is one of our leaders and probably was the most dominant kid in the region. Josh means business when he steps onto the mat. He brings his lunchbox and hard hat and isn’t afraid of any work you put in front of him.”

With all 10 wrestlers qualifying for the National Tournament, Coach Spree says he likes Ellsworth’s chances. “We have an advantage on almost all of the teams that will be at the tournament because we have 10 guys … there are maybe only two or three other colleges bringing this many wrestlers. I also feel like we have 10 guys who are capable of being All Americans if they show up and do what they are supposed to do. We are a dangerous team, and if we take care of business the next couple of weeks like we have been, good things will happen.

Spree was also named Coach of the Year at the Regional Tournament. Of the recognition, he says, “It is an honor and without a doubt I’m proud of it, but I am more proud of our guys and our coaching staff. The amount of time and dedication they put in is unreal. They are the ones who made it possible for me to receive the award. They are all great people who work hard and are not afraid to get down and dirty when it’s called for. Without them the award would have never happened.”

Central District:  River Grove, IL – The Lincoln College wrestling team traveled to Triton College to compete in the Region 24 tournament on Sunday February 10th. The Region Tournament is the team’s National qualifying event. The team competed very well and finished as Region Champions with all 10 wrestlers qualifying for the National tournament. Head Coach Steven Bradley said, “This was a great day for the team and the Lincoln College wrestling program. Each individual came prepared and wrestled well. I could not be more proud of my athletes. They fought hard and believed that they could win. It was a very fun day watching these young men compete. It has been a long season and seeing them achieve their goals was exciting. We finished the day with four champions, two runner-ups, three 3rd place finishers and one 5th place finisher.”  Takil Agnew (Springfield, IL) was the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament and Head Coach Steven Bradley was the Region Coach of the Year.

Nassau Wins North Eastern District II Championship (Ten Finalists)
For the first time in school history Nassau Community College had ten wrestlers in the finals of the NJCAA District 11 Championships. Despite a major snowstorm on the day of the event and a hurricane known as Sandy to start the season, Nassau was able to overcome all the adversity thrown at them. With six out of state teams arriving a day earlier before the snow storm, it was possible to hold the event.  During the year you don’t hear much about the team but they are competing every weekend against some of the best competition on the east coast. A typical weekend a Nassau wrestlers is wrestling some of the best Division I and Division III wrestlers in the country. This weekend, the team really showed their character and their ability, by winning the National Qualifying tournament in a landslide.. With the return of a couple of wrestlers from the injury list and two wrestlers dropping down in weight, the lineup fell into place.

NIAGARA Wins Eastern District I
NCCC Wrestling wins their 18th Regional title! The Thunderwolves finished with 116 points and 10 National qualifiers. Head Coach Keith Maute was named NJCAA Region III Coach of the Year and NCCC's Irvin Buck was voted most outstanding wrestler.   Niagara’s placers/qualifiers included (149) Kevin Strong- Regional Champ?(157) Irvin Buck- Regional Champ?(165) Kris Schimek- Regional Champ?(174) John Brabon- Regional Champ?(197) Gunnar Thomas- Regional Champ?(285) Max Antone- Regional Champ?(125) Barney Prince- Runner Up?(133) Lance Compton- Runner Up?(141) Brian Galuski- 3rd place?(184) Dustin Moss- 3rd place.

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