Talk about home-mat advantage.
With the national junior college wrestling tournament opening Friday at the Spokane Convention Center, North Idaho College coach Pat Whitcomb sees a great chance to raise the sport’s profile in the Inland Northwest.
He also hopes that come Saturday the Cardinals will raise another championship banner, which would be the school’s 15th.
“It’s great having it in the Spokane area because the Greater Spokane League is such a hotbed of talent,” Whitcomb said. “It brings that national attention back to the Northwest and gets those little kids in the stands, hopefully not just to wrestle but to go to college.”
That’s the long-term goal. For now, Whitcomb hopes the third-ranked and defending champion Cardinals can muscle past the other contending teams.
That includes top-ranked Clackamas (Ore.), which two weeks ago ended NIC’s 17-year run of Region 18 titles. Clackamas won four of five head-to-head matches against the Cardinals to take the team title, 104.5 to 92.5.
According to Whitcomb, the top NIC contenders include Jeremy Golding at 149, Tyler McLean at 165 – both of whom are from Mead – and V.J. Giulio at 197.
Along with Clackamas and NIC, Whitcomb sees No. 2 Northeastern Oklahoma, Northwest (Wyo.) College and Lincoln (Ill.) College as bona fide contenders for the team title.
“It’s going to be exciting to see who’s going to step up and have that good surprise, and how are we going to react to those bad surprises,” said Whitcomb, who will have wrestlers in all 10 weight classes.
The action begins at 9:15 a.m. Friday with the Parade of All Teams; the first matches begin at 9:30.
Saturday’s matches start at 10:30 a.m., with the championship finals beginning at 6:45 p.m.
The tournament includes 257 wrestlers from 39 teams.