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Cards hope to get rockin’ at regionals

NIC keeps attention on No. 3 Clackamas

The photo on the North Idaho College wrestling team’s media guide says it all.

There the Cardinals are with their coaches standing on a large pile of rocks. The stated theme is obvious: rock-solid tradition.

NIC’s hard-as-granite program could be tested Saturday when the Cardinals host the NJCAA Region 18 tournament. Action begins at 1 p.m., with the semifinals an hour later and the championship finals at 7. The top three in each weight advance to nationals, Feb. 27-28 at Rochester, Minn.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens. Children 10 and younger are free.

The Cards have captured 33 of the last 36 regional titles, including nine straight. NIC is ranked second in the nation.

For the first time in NIC coach Pat Whitcomb’s 12 years, another team is headed to the regional tournament packing some national clout. Clackamas Community College moved up from 10th to third last week.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here there’s been two teams from our region ranked in the top three in the country going into (regionals),” Whitcomb said.

Region 18 is full of highly ranked wrestlers. NIC features four of them – freshmen Celic Bell (174 pounds) and Rudi Burtschi (197), who are both ranked second, and Lester Brown (133) and Kamron Jackson (184), who are both ranked third.

Clackamas is led by heavyweight Tyrell Fortune (second), Kyle Wirkuty (fourth, 141), Josh Miller (fourth, 174), Caleb Kociemba (fourth, 184) and Anthony Weerheim (149, fifth).

“We’re solid right now,” Whitcomb said. “I like how we’re looking.”

NIC sophomores Tim McGoldrick (141) and D.J. May (165) are defending regional champs. Other defending champs are Marshall Giovanni of Highline CC (157) and Jason Troxell (197) of Southwestern Oregon CC.

Whitcomb expects to qualify all 10 of his entrants to nationals.

“We better if we’re going to have a shot at winning the national title,” Whitcomb said.

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