After watching his teammates fall in two of the first four matches, North Idaho College’s 150-pound wrestler Josh Morton stepped onto the mat with Josh Wright of Ricks College with his team up only one point.
Morton got caught on his back and seemed to be in trouble before rolling Wright over for a pin that sent the NJCAA top-ranked Cardinals on their way to a 28-9 victory Saturday in Christianson Gymnasium.
Morton was followed by another pin from former Moses Lake star Mark Janke at 158. The second pin gave NIC a 13-point lead.
“The two pins were unexpected,” NIC coach John Owen said.
The match started out poorly for the Cardinals as Dan Vega lost to Johnson Webb in a close 118-pound match that decided the No. 1 seed at the upcoming regional tournament.
Vega was in the lead for most of the match before Webb’s takedown with 23 seconds left gave him a 4-3 lead that he never relinquished.
NIC then received wins from Jessie Schaffer at 126 and Ben Shane at 134 to take a 7-3 lead.
Ricks had its most impressive showing at 142 pounds where Rupp Boone beat Cardinal Bob Presta for the fourth time this year. Boone outmuscled Presta on his way to a 9-3 victory that made the team score 7-6 before Morton wrestled.
After the pins, NIC’s Jason Moaney faced Kris West at 167. Moaney fell behind 7-1 before storming back with a pair of near falls and riding time to take a 9-7 victory.
“I’m impressed by the way Jason could spot him 7-1 and come back; those are the things you can’t teach,” Owen said.
The Cardinals finished out the match with victories from Josh Clausen at 177 and Orlando Jordan at 190. The heavyweight match went to Tyler Prawitt of Ricks in a 2-1 decision over Aaron McArthur.
Ricks, currently ranked fifth in the NJCAA, traveled all night to arrive at the match after wrestling Friday in Rexburg. Coach Bob Christensen wasn’t sure that was a factor.
“It’s hard telling what effect it had,” Christensen said. “It obviously had some effect, but we just had to come wrestle the best we can.”
Owen felt that even a tired Ricks team was still great competition.
“This is the best junior college team that I have ever wrestled in Christianson Gymnasium,” he said
NIC’s next home match will be Feb. 1, against Western Montana.
NIC 28, Ricks 9
118 - Webb, Ricks, d. Vega 4-3. 126 - Schaffer, NIC, d. Bingham 11-8. 134 - Shane, NIC, d. Beecher 11-3. 142 - R. Boone, Ricks, d. Presta 9-3. 150 - Morton, NIC, p. Wright 2:28. 158 - Janke, NIC, p. Thomas 3:39. 167 - Moaney, NIC, d. West 9-7. 177 - Clausen, NIC, d. T. Boone 5-2. 190 - Jordan, NIC, d. Zieker 8-1. Hvy - Prawitt, Ricks, d. McArthur 2-1.