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Late rally allows NIC to claim second

Neil Tardy Special to the Spokesman-Review

ROCHESTER, Minn. – While its highest aspirations went unrealized, North Idaho College accomplished what it set out to do at this weekend’s NJCAA National Wrestling Championships.

NIC earned second place in the team competition Saturday, with Celic Bell and Kamron Jackson both claiming third-place finishes.

In winning its fourth straight national championship, Iowa Central dominated the scholarship division, totaling 161.5 points.

North Idaho finished with 89.5 points, edging third-place Clackamas (Ore.) Community College by 21/2 points. Next in line were Colby (74.5), Labette (74), Iowa Lakes (67) and NIACC (63).

Prior to nationals, NIC coach Pat Whitcomb said it would take an exceptional effort for his team to overcome top-ranked Iowa Central.

After the meet, Whitcomb acknowledged the significance of a runner-up finish.

“It’s a big deal for North Idaho,” he said. “To get in the top three is always our goal.”

It’s a goal that’s usually met. NIC has placed third or higher at nationals in 32 of the past 37 seasons, winning 13 team titles in that span.

After its three semifinalists – Tim McGoldrick, Rudi Burtschi and Bell – lost their morning matches, NIC needed to rally to regain second place from Clarkamas.

But the NIC contingent rebounded in consolations, putting four of its wrestlers in third-place matches. Two of them won – Bell decisioned North Iowa’s Brett Rosedale 16-13 at 174 pounds, while Jackson edged Neosho’s Derek Heckel 7-4 at 184 to end the weekend with four consecutive wins. The fourth-place finishers were McGoldrick at 141 and Burtschi at 197.

By afternoon’s end, NIC had clinched second place, thanks to Spencer Sharp’s pin of Ellsworth’s Bojan Djukic in the seventh-place match at 285. Sharp’s pin ended up being the difference between second and third place for NIC.

Three of NIC’s five All-Americans (in NJCAA wrestling, a top-eight finish brings an automatic All-American designation) are freshmen.

Burtschi, Jackson and Bell are all expected to return next season.

Bell, whose only loss at nationals was a 9-6 decision to the eventual champion at 174, Lincoln College’s James Nakashima, said his goal going into this season was to be an All-American.

The Michigan native said he learned in his first year of college wrestling the importance of conditioning.

“You need to work harder, like coming in to run at night when you’re done with practice,” Bell said.

Complete results of the NJCAA wrestling nationals are available at www.rochsports.com.

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