Clackamas CC wrestlers repeat as NJCAA National Champions
There is really only one thing in all of junior college wrestling that is better than winning an NJCAA National Championship team title.
Winning two in a row.
Clackamas Community College's Jason Shaner claimed the 133-pound title and six other Clackamas wrestlers placed fifth or higher, leading the Cougars to a second consecutive team title at Saturday's finals of the NJCAA Wrestling National Championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Clackamas' Marty Margolis III added a second-place finish at 149, and Joel Romero placed second at 157 to help highlight a championship run that saw the Cougars finish with a team score of 133.5 to runner-up Northeastern Oklahoma A&M's 108.5.
It was the fourth national title for the Cougars, who became only the eighth team to win back-to-back NJCAA championships and the first since Iowa Central won four in a row from 2006-2009.
"This one is pretty gratifying," Cougars coach Josh Rhoden said. "It puts us in pretty unique company as a program and as a team to say that, 'Hey, we can do this back-to-back in this division and at this level.'
"And both years, we won in commanding fashion over a Northeastern Oklahoma team that had dominated the division with three titles in the previous six years. That speaks highly of where our guys' minds are at, as well as the rest of the program — the assistant coaches, the training staff, and everybody that put their time, effort, and energy into it."
Clackamas qualified wrestlers in all 10 weights classes and emerged from Friday's opening rounds with a tournament-high five in the semifinals and two others in the consolation semis, giving the Cougars an 84.5-79.5 lead over Rochester (Minn.).
The Cougars broke the team race open Saturday morning's consolation round as Dax Bennett at 174, Marckis Branford at 141, Tarik Sutkovic at 197, and Tommy Mommer at 285 all placed fifth, all scoring bonus points with pins in their final matches.
Shaner, the top-ranked wrestler at 133, won his first two matches with technical falls and then won by a 6-4 decision over Ellsroth's Hector Candelaria in the semifinals.
In the final, Shaner scored a second-round takedown to take a 2-1 lead against Iowa Western's Ladamien Sturdivant, then added a third-round takedown and held on for a 5-3 win.
"Shaner is a kid who does everything the right way," Rhoden said. "As a coach, you don't always get to have the conversation where it's, 'You deserve it.' Usually, the conversation is, 'You did everything right and I have to tell you why you don't get what you want.'
"I'm getting emotional thinking about saying those things to him right now just because I know the work he put into this."
In the 149 final, Pratt's Jake Beeson won by a 13-1 major decision over Margolis, who struggled to recover at Beeson used a takedown and a near fall to open an early 6-1 lead.
"We kept trying to get back in the match with big moves and the guy just ended up in the right spot," Rhoden said. "I mean, we were in three different positions that were a fraction of an inch away from being able to put him on his back. The kid just wrestled well."
At 157, Harper's Munktulga Zuunbayan scored the initial takedown in the second round against Romero, who countered with an escape in the second round and another escape in the third round to tie the score at 2-2 and force overtime.
Zuunbayan then put the match away on a disputed takedown with two seconds remaining, relegating Romero to second place for the second year in a row.
"I think they went out of bounds before the takedown and we actually challenged the takedown," Rhoden said. "Like any challenge, they only look at what you ask them to look at and not what happened before it, so we just asked to challenge the wrong thing."
In addition to the three previous national titles in 1971, 2011, and 2019, the Cougars have had their share of near misses in recent years, finishing second in 2015, 2017, and 2018, and placing third in 2013 and 2014.
"We've been on every side of this stinkin' tournament, I can tell you that," Rhoden said. "And after having our heart ripped out and stomped on and everything else, it's nice for two years in a row to end up right where you want to be.
"To have seven All-Americans and they all finished fifth or better … I mean, that's crazy, right?"
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