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NJCAA wrestling team title comes down to final match

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Final match decides national championship for Iowa Central last weekend

Iowa Central heavyweight Thomas Petersen etched his name in Clackamas Community College wrestling history on Saturday night.

Petersen dashed Clackamas' national championship dreams when he pinned North Iowa's Mario Pena in the final match, lifting Iowa Central to the team title by a 150-146.5 margin at Saturday's NJCAA national tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Josh ReyesClackamas 174-pounder Colt Doyle and 149-pounder Josh Reyes both won individual champions, and three other Cougars -- David Campbell at 125, Dillon Ulrey at 165, and Haszell West at 184 -- each placed second.

Kurt Mode added a third-place finish at 141, Nathan Johnson placed fourth at 133, and John Leal was seventh at 157, giving the Cougars' eight All-Americans in the two-day tournament.

"We knew that we need three wins in the finals to give ourselves the best possible chance," Clackamas coach Josh Rhoden said. "We would have taken it out of everybody else's hands that way.

"Honestly, eight All-Americans, five finalists, and 146 1/2 points usually wins you a championship, so it's hard to say, 'Man, our guys didn't do their job.' I thought we had it, and that hurt. I think it's the first time we left a tournament not getting what we wanted, but knowing we did everything we could."

Clackamas had a 138.5-135 edge over both Iowa Central and Northeast Oklahoma A&M entering the finals, but missed an opportunity to extend the lead when Campbell dropped a 4-3 to Iowa Central's Todd Small in the 125-pound final.

Reyes kept the Cougars' title hopes alive when he won by a 6-4 decision over Northeast Oklahoma's Dylan Lucas at 149.

Ulrey, who sustained a shoulder injury in the quarterfinals, came out on the wrong side of a 6-2 decision against Northern Oklahoma's Wyatt Jordan, falling to a wrestler he had beaten at last month's National Duals tournament.

Doyle put Clackmas back on top in the team race with an 8-2 win over Southeastern Oregon's Adrian Lyons-Lopez at 174, but the Cougars again missed an opportunity to pad their lead when Iowa Western's Preston Lauterbach pinned West in the 184 final.

Heading into the heavyweight final, Iowa Central needed only a win, but Petersen earned the fall at 2:33 to give the Tritons of Fort Dodge, Iowa the team title.

"If it's coming down to heavyweight to win the national title, there is no other guy that I would want," Tritons coach Luke Moffitt told reporters. "I knew his offense was gong to get him through it and I just had to remind him of that.

"Some guys would clam up in that situation, but when we scored first with a takedown, I knew he had it. It was pretty special to win the way we did, coming down to the final match."

Over the past 11 seasons, Clackamas has had eight top-five finishes at the national tournament, placing first in 2011, second in 2015 and 2017, third in 2009, 2013, and 2014, fourth in 2012, and fifth in 2007.

"If it's coming down to heavyweight to win the natinal title, there is no other guy that I would want," Tritons coach Luke Moffitt told reporters. "I knew his offense was gong to get him through it and I just had to remind him of that.

"Some guys would clam up in that situation, but when we scored first with a takedown, I knew he had it. It was pretty special to win the way we did, coming down to the final match."

Over the past 11 seasons, Clackamas has had eight top-five finishes at the national tournament, placing first in 2011, second in 2015 and 2017, third in 2009, 2013, and 2014, fourth in 2012, and fifth in 2007.

During that same stretch, the Cougars have turned out 61 All-Americans.

"This is probably one of our favorite groups of guys, just because they work and they do everything the right way," Rhoden said. "The thing that's most disappointing is that they did everything we asked. They lived life right, academics were right, training was right, but the result was wrong.

"That's sports sometimes. We're not the first team to do everything the right way and finish second."