Clackamas CC wrestlers clinch NJCAA national championship
It was the Clackamas Community College wrestling team's time to shine Saturday night.
Clackamas' Trajan Hurd and Elijah Ozuna locked up individual crowns and seven other CCC wrestlers earned All-American honors, leading the Cougars to a third national team title Saturday at the NJCAA wrestling championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Of the 10 wrestlers Clackamas took to the national finals, eight reached the quarterfinals, seven advanced to the semifinals, and four -- Ozuna at 141 pounds, Joel Romero at 157, Hurd at 174, and Joey Daniel at 197 -- made the finals.
All together, Clackamas had two wrestlers finish first, two finished second, two finished third, two finished fifth, and one finished seventh as the Cougars set a new national tournament record for team points with 176.5 to runner-up Northeastern Oklahoma's 152.
Iowa Central was third with 125.5 points.
Clackamas also won national team titles in 1971 and 2011, and had several near misses in recent years, including second-place finishes in 2015, 2016, and 2018.
"Getting there is hard, but getting back there is just as hard," Cougars coach Josh Rhoden said. "We've been chasing this since 2011. I mean, the past eight years we've been close where we've been in the hunt but not getting over the hump.
"These guys came in with the attitude of, 'Look, we're going to wrestle hard and we're going to have fun and we're going to just bank on good vibes and a relaxed mentality."
Throw in 6 a.m. practices -- something new this season to try and help keep everyone's priorities in check -- and the Cougars hit on a winning formula.
"It was crazy to me, man," Rhoden said. "This is one of the best group of guys I've ever been with. And I've been doing this a long time and worked with hundreds of kids, and this team has been resilient, tough, focused, calm … just wonderful kids.
"You don't get that all the time at our level. These guys bought in. They said, 'Yes,' to the hard choices that you have to make as an adult, but you don't always understand when you're 18 to 20. And it paid off for them, and that's always fun to see."
All the right moves
After a solid first day, Clackamas emerged with a 112-92 lead over Northeastern Oklahoma, the defending national champions, followed by Iowa Central (85.5), Northwest Kansas Tech (74.5), Ellsworth (56), and North Idaho (54).
The Cougars then made a big push in Saturday's consolation matches to decide third, fifth, and seventh, going 5 for 5 with Zeth Brower winning by first-round fall to place third at 125, Mason McDaniel winning by an 8-5 decision to take third at 165, Jason Shaner winning by forfeit to finish fifth at 133, Trevor Senn winning by a 6-4 decision to place fifth at 184, and Tommy Mommer winning by second-round fall to finish seventh at 285.
That put Clackamas ahead by 23 1/2 points heading into the finals, which was significant because NEO and CCC both had four wrestlers in the finals.
If Clackamas had gone 0-4 in the finals and NEO had gone 4-0 with four pins, NEO would have repeated as national champions by a half-point.
"So, for three hours, I'm stressing about that," Rhoden said. "But in the end, we get two champs, NEO got two, and our guys set the national scoring record."
Ozuna, the sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., won his first two matches by major decision and then won by disqualification while leading 9-0 over Iowa Western's Gad Huseman in the semifinals.
In the finals, Ozuna and top-ranked Zach Donathan of Ellsworth were tied 1-1 when Ozuna scored the deciding takedown with two seconds remaining in the third round.
Hurd, the sophomore from Grants Pass, won each of his first four bouts with pins and then scored an 11-3 major decision over Iowa Central's Ashton Eyler in the 174-pound final.
Romero, a freshman from Fresno, Calif., and the No. 3-ranked 157-pounder, won his first four matches with one fall, two major decisions, and a 5-4 decision in the semifinals. He then lost by a 17-5 major decision to second-ranked Ethan Karsten of Iowa Central in the final.
At 197, Daniel, the freshman from Santa Ana, Calif., won by an 8-7 decision over second-ranked Connor Kirkland of Western Wyoming in the semifinals, and then lost by a 6-2 decision to top-ranked Tyree Sutton of Iowa Central in the final.
The only Clackamas wrestler who didn't place was 149-pounder Marty Margolis, who sustained a separated shoulder in a 7-2 loss to Northwest Kansas Tech's Enkhbold Sukhbaatar in the quarterfinals.