THE FRONT ROW WITH MARK NELKE: Wrestling with another NWAC option

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Rumors of North Idaho College moving its wrestling program to the Northwest Athletic Conference are “way overstated and exaggerated,” NIC athletic director Al Williams said earlier this week.

A former NIC wrestler, now coaching in college many miles away, said he had “heard whispers” of the move, and had even been asked by another NJCAA coach last weekend if the rumors were true.

“It’s reasonable to say there’s a beginning discussion (about possibly moving NIC wrestling to the NWAC),” Williams said. “In any event, at this point NIC has no active plans to leave the NJCAA.”

IN THE past few years, NIC has moved all its other programs (volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and softball) from the NJCAA to the NWAC, primarily for money reasons.

Wrestling was the only NIC sport to remain in the NJCAA.

The NWAC is more regionally based, with most of its schools in Washington and Oregon.

The NJCAA’s Scenic West Conference has teams in Utah, Nevada and Colorado, as well as Idaho.

The NJCAA offers a national tournament. In the NWAC, the conference tournament is the end of the road.

NIC has won 14 national championships in wrestling, most recently in 2013. The Cardinals are tied for fourth in the most recent NJCAA rankings.

THE NWAC does not currently offer wrestling. A few NWAC schools that offer wrestling compete in something called the National Collegiate Wrestling Association.

A few other NWAC schools — including Clackamas, Highline and Southwestern Oregon — compete in the NJCAA, in the same region with NIC.

“While I can’t fully predict the future of any of our programs, at this point, the topic of wrestling has only been part of informal discussion for expansion of all sports in the NWAC,” Williams said. “The NWAC has had no formal discussions about adding wrestling to the conference to date. We attempted to have a conference call among schools in the NWAC that have wrestling, including a few NWAC schools that currently have club wrestling programs, to see what the interest would be to add wrestling as a conference sport. We were unable to get all parties together so we decided to have a meeting as part of our semi-annual winter meetings in February. Currently it’s not a formal agenda item but that could change.”

“If the NWAC is considering creating a wrestling conference sport it would be in our interest to listen to the options,” Williams added. “Too soon to know the answers related to continuation of national competition, scholarship levels, and male and female divisions. At this point it’s only a topic of discussion for the NWAC and way too soon to make any kind of firm commitment for NIC wrestling’s future.”

ON THE high school front:

Coeur d’Alene and Lake City square off Friday in the 21st Fight for the Fish spirit basketball games. The girls game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., followed by the boys game.

This year’s games will be played for the first time at Coeur d’Alene High’s remodeled Viking Court, the former auxiliary gym expanded to seat roughly 2,400. Elmer Jordan Court, the Vikings’ home court for decades, seated roughly 1,600.

The schools have alternated hosting the games in recent years. Last year was Coeur d’Alene’s turn, but the Vikings switched with Lake City so Cd’A could host this year in its “new” gym.

Post Falls hosts its River City Duals for the 22nd year this Friday and Saturday at The Arena in Post Falls.

Post Falls has won the last four River City Duals, and five of the last seven. The two years the Trojans didn’t win (2013 and ’14), they finished second to Hermiston (Ore.).

Last weekend, Post Falls finished third at the Rollie Lane Invitational in Nampa, after winning the previous four titles.

Over the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Post Falls boys basketball coach Mike McLean reached the 200-win mark at his alma mater when the Trojans beat host Auburn (Wash.) in the championship game of the Under Armour Holiday Classic on Dec. 22. Post Falls has since tacked on four more wins, giving McLean a career record of 204-87, heading into the Trojans’ 5A Inland Empire League opener Friday at Lewiston.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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