ELLIOTT: Early tests could pay off near the finish

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Often times, coaches talk about testing their teams in the preseason.

When it comes to that concept, there might not be a better example than the North Idaho College wrestling team.

WHETHER IT be traveling to the midwest for a tournament, or climbing aboard a train to travel to the middle of Montana, it’s all in the interest of bringing home another NJCAA championship to Coeur d’Alene.

Last Thursday, NIC wrestlers boarded a train for a 432-mile trip from Sandpoint to Havre, Mont., where they faced NAIA power Montana State-Northern. NIC then rented cars in Havre, drove 111 miles to Great Falls to take on the University of Providence (the former University of Great Falls), traveled back to Havre following the match and rode a train back to Sandpoint.

“Hopefully we’ll get a little tougher from this,” NIC coach Pat Whitcomb said. “We’ll have another tough trip and big open tournament next weekend.”

About that tournament — NIC will compete in the Grand View Open on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. Before that, they’ll compete in dual matches against Iowa Western and Iowa Central on Thursday in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and then face Sierra (Calif.) on Friday in Des Moines.

In the 2018 NJCAA tournament, Iowa Central finished third and Iowa Western fifth. NIC was sixth.

That being said, with a week under its belts, Whitcomb believes his team will be ready to go.

“Making weight will be that much easier with that experience now,” Whitcomb said. “Hopefully we know where we stand by the end of the weekend.”

NIC’s home opener is Nov. 16 against Clackamas Community College. The Cougars of Oregon City, Ore., finished second at nationals.

In case you were curious, the NJCAA tournament is March 1-2 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

WHEN IT comes to the high school football playoffs, maybe it was an early season trip to Rigby that helped Coeur d’Alene into the state 5A semifinals.

Coeur d’Alene — much like Friday’s comeback — had to find a way to win in its opener at Rigby all the way back in August.

Timberlake, while it didn’t win its opener at Frenchtown, Mont., is still fighting in the 3A playoffs.

Even better, the Tigers won’t have to travel again this week as Homedale comes to Spirit Lake for a semifinal game on Saturday afternoon at Van Tuinstra Memorial Field in Spirit Lake.

Should both Coeur d’Alene and Timberlake advance to the championship game, they’d have the option of hosting the championship game. Unfortunately, the Kibbie Dome in Moscow — the designated site up north for the championship game — might not be available next week due to a scheduling conflict.

First things first as both teams need to pass a few more tests this weekend.

Something they’ve been doing a pretty good job of as of late.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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