COOS BAY — With the Southwestern Oregon Community College men wrestling at the NJCAA Wrestling Championships earlier this month the tournament consisted of ups, downs and some All-Americans.
“We had some heartbreak but we also had some huge success. Some of those people experienced both,” said SWOCC men’s wrestling head coach Adam Whitlach.
The men’s team traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 6 and 7 where the team finished 16th overall but got third-place performances from Joel Avila (125) and Matt Hofenbredl (141). David Kerr (133) was the other male wrestler earning an All-American spot with his eighth place finish.
For the 11th-seeded Avila, it was a difficult road to third place. For the second year in a row, in the opening round Avila was matched up against the wrestler that went on to finish second in the weight class.
Placed in the consolation round, Avila went on to win eight straight matches to secure third place. In the third-place match Avila defeated North Idaho’s Andres Lucero 9-7.
“That is just really hard to do ... that’s tough man. There was nothing stopping him,” said Whitlach. “For him it wasn’t really that hard. He was right on it. I didn’t have to do much for Joel. He was ready to go. He wanted to be there.”
Hofenbredl went into the tournament with the No. 1 seed and opened with three-straight wins to make his way to the semifinals. In that match he was defeated by Rochester’s Auston Hall by a 3-2 decision.
“We probably had a takedown there to win at the end of the match. Ref wouldn’t look at it on his own to review the call, which I think was a huge mistake. And even if they come back with the same call, it could have at least given people some piece of mind knowing that he at least reviewed it,” said Whitlach.
“I think Matt was the best wrestler in the weight class.”
After what SWOCC saw as a heartbreaking loss, Hofenbredl was back on the mat 40 minutes later for the third-place match where he went on to defeat Ellsworth’s Scott Cook 6-2.
“He walks out into the hallway after feeling like he got robbed, crying and I’m behind him talking, ‘Hey man, this sucks but we have to keep going and there’s a match coming up.’ That one was really hard,” said Whitlach.
Elsewhere on the team, fourth-seeded JJ Perez (285) advanced to the quarterfinals where Andre Baguma of Northland defeated him 4-2.
Perez then faced Tommy Mommer of Clackamas in the consolation. Perez defeated Mommer at the NJCAA West Region Championship in Coos Bay last month. In Council Bluffs it was Mommer scoring a 4-2 decision on his way to finishing third place. Clackamas, for the second year in a row, took the team title.
“I think it was crushing for JJ, it was hard for me. I think it was hard for everyone on the team. You know, he’s been a rock for everybody. He is somebody everyone looks up to,” said Whitlach. “He’s kind of the centerpiece for the team in a lot of ways and I think a lot of people thought he was going to win it, myself included. It was pretty heart-wrenching.”
Off the mat, the weekend also included former SWOCC Athletic Director and coach John Speasl being inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame banquet also included Whitlach being named Man of the Year.
“We were both given the awards before the finals and it was great to be able to share some of the stage with someone like John. For me he has been a huge mentor. He’s my boss, mentor and also a friend. He’s given me guidance and leadership throughout my years here,” said Whitlach.
For the SWOCC women’s wrestling team, the Lakers travelled to Marietta, Georgia, where the team finished 15th in the WCWA nationals.
Ira Navarro (101) took fifth place while Adrianna Orozco (143) claimed seventh and Kory Phillips (109) finished in eighth.