College wrestling: Minnesota West set for district tournament
SPENCER, Iowa — Six wrestlers for Minnesota West Community and Technical College will take their first steps into postseason action Sunday at the National Junior College Athletic Association’s North Central District Championship.
The tournament features 10 teams in all. Five are Division III non-scholarship programs and the others are Division I scholarship programs from Iowa. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. at Spencer High School.
“We’ll be taking six healthy wrestlers. It’s kind of like apples to oranges,” Minnesota West head coach Bob Purcell reported of the stiffness of competition his wrestlers will face. “Somebody has to step up and beat more than one scholarship kid (at this tournament).”
The Bluejays — currently ranked 19th among the NJCAA’s top 20 teams nationally — have been led all season by Ben Goodwin (174) and Jared Nickman (157), but others have also had their successes for the team.
Kareed Williams, a freshman at 125 pounds, has spent much of his season wrestling up a weight class, at 133, mostly in dual meets. West’s 149-pounder Michael Tanner and heavyweight Josh Valandra have also put together strong seasons. Also wrestling for West this weekend will be 197-pounder Zelius Morrow, a newcomer and a recent transfer from football.
Minnesota West has pocketed two dual wins for itself this season, over Itasca and Northland.
“These Division I schools have tough kids and dominant kids and it just takes one mistake to get pinned,” Purcell said. “But I’m happy with how the season has gone. Anytime you’re in the top 20, you’re doing something.”
At this point for wrestlers, it will be all about wrestling at the highest level in hopes of reaching the national tournament, which is scheduled for next weekend in Spokane, Wash. Goodwin qualified for nationals last year along with Greg Gainey, who placed sixth at 165 pounds.
This weekend’s district tournament is set up so that even if a wrestler loses once or twice, strength of competition will be taken into consideration and wild card spots in the national tournament may be earned. No wins for a wrestler, however, leaves little chance for that.
“Basically it comes down to the day of the tournament,” Purcell said. “It’s up to the wrestlers to show that — even if they lose a match — they wrestled hard and were in it.”