NIC ROUNDUP: Cardinal wrestlers healthy, back home for districts

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• WRESTLING

Health wound up costing North Idaho College its final home match of the regular season a few weeks ago.

Two weeks later, and a little healthier than before, the Cardinals will be in front of the home audience one last time this season, albeit with a little more on the line.

NIC will host the West District Championships — formerly the Region 18 championships — starting with quarterfinal matches at 10 a.m. Semifinals are estimated at 11 a.m., with championship finals at 2 p.m.

“Health has been a big issue for us,” NIC interim coach Brandon Richardson said. “So giving the guys some time off to get them healthy has been really big for us.”

Scheduled to wrestle for NIC today will be Esco Walker (125 pounds), Nick Hara (133), Hassan Hawthorne (141), Bryce Parson (149), Cooper McCullough (157), Izaiah Duran (165), Traeger Abatti (174), Christian Grover (184), Hunter Gregerson (197) and Connor Sullivan (285).

The top three individuals in each weight class automatically qualify for the NJCAA Tournament March 1-2 at the Mid-American Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. At the conclusion of today’s tournament, the district’s coaches will meet and select five wild-card berths to nationals from the 10 weight classes.

Also competing will be Clackamas, the top-ranked team in the latest NJCAA poll released Feb. 4. NIC is ranked eighth, and Southwestern Oregon 17th in the polls. Umpqua and Highline — which as of Saturday morning had four wrestlers stuck in the Seattle area and unable to make the trip due to weather issues — will also compete. If they can’t make it here by today, those wrestlers from Highline will be scratched from the tournament, but will be considered for wild cards, according to NIC athletic director and West District coordinator Al Williams.

“With an extra week between regionals and nationals, our focus is on if we can be 100 percent by nationals, we can make some noise back there,” Richardson said. “We’ve got Hassan back after some injury problems, but he’s down a weight class. I hope he can be a contender at 141.”

Walker has wrestled unattached so far in tournaments this season, winning the Spokane Open in November.

“Esco was ranked second going into nationals last year at 125, but didn’t have the finish he wanted,” Richardson said of Walker, who didn’t place at nationals. “He was a little nervous to be on that stage, but he’s gained the maturity to make a run at a national title.”

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students with a valid ID. Children under 10 are admitted free.

• BASKETBALL

NIC/Walla Walla

games postponed

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Saturday’s Northwest Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball games between North Idaho College and Walla Walla were postponed due to a winter storm in Washington.

The teams will play on Monday, Feb. 18 in Walla Walla, with the women’s game starting at 2 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 4 p.m.

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