LCC duels with Aztecs in regional
Formidable challenge awaits college wrestlers at nationals Typically, Lassen College's wrestling team doesn't travel to Rochester, Minn. without high expectations. But this is not a typical year.
"We were going to try to win as many matches as we can and wait until next year," Lassen coach Rex Branum said about his team's chances at the National Junior College Athletic Association Championships next weekend. "We've had some injuries this year and a couple of kids not pan out like we wanted them to.
"But we're going to be back to the level like we have been next year."
Lassen qualified five wrestlers for nationals at last Saturday's Southwest Regional against Pima College (Ariz.).
Branum will take Willie Hilton, Dan Shaw, Joey Bracamonte, David Hilliard, Dathan Miller and wildcard selection, who he has yet to select.
Branum said Bracamonte, a freshman, and Hilliard, a sophomore, have the best shot at winning a national title.
"They're going to be our best (at nationals)," he said. "The rest of the guys have great shots at placing, but Joey and David are looking pretty good right now."
At 157 pounds, Bracamonte had little trouble beating Pima's Josh Medina 6-2. Hilliard pinned Eli Grimmett with a second left while leading 12-5 in the 165-pound match.
Bracamonte and Hilliard are undefeated this year against junior college opponents.
Hilton scored a 8-5 decision over Peter DeLa Cruz at 141 pounds. Shaw manhandled Seabrook Bizzle 17-8 at 149 pounds, and heavyweight Dathan Miller maneuvered his way to a 6-1 win over Pima's Shane Jones.
"(The regional) turned out like I thought it would," Branum said. "Pima has improved greatly and gave us some trouble. I was hoping we could have won one of two early matches, but the rest of guys wrestled like I thought they would."
Lassen's Justin Stanley (125 pounds) and Joe Mavins (133) fell in the early matches.
"Now it's time to fine tune for nationals. We may not win a national title, but the guys will be ready for what they come across," Branum said.
Lassen entered last weekend's regional ranked eighth in the country. Neosho Community College (Kan.) stands atop the rankings and is followed by Iowa Central, North Idaho, Northwest College (Wyo.) and Ricks College (Idaho).
Last weekend marked the final year Lassen will compete in the Southwest Regional.
The Cougars will qualify for nationals the Northwest Regional - one of four regions that will be instituted by a vote later this year.
Lassen will face off against teams like North Idaho, Pima and other teams in the Western states.
"It will be a lot better. Each region will send five to six guys in each weight class to nationals. The regions will be more competitive and it's much better all around for (the NJCAA)," he said.
This year's NJCAA Championships will be held Friday-Saturday, Feb 15-16. Lassen won national titles from 1995 to 1998.