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Iowa school is centrally located in wrestling mecca

By Neil Tardy

sports@postbulletin.com

Why is Iowa Central’s wrestling program so successful?

The answer is right in the name.

The Fort Dodge-based community college is centrally located among many of the nation’s most prominent wrestling schools, including last year’s national champions in NCAA Division II (Nebraska-Omaha), NCAA Division III (Wartburg) and NAIA (Dana College in Nebraska). Then of course there are in-state NCAA Division I powers Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa.

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Even the University of Minnesota, the Division I national runner-up in 2006, is only about three hours away.

By not only sitting in this wrestling hotbed, but annually competing against these mighty four-year schools, Iowa Central has developed a dominant program.

One thing the Tritons have yet to accomplish is win back-to-back championships. But they’ll get their chance during this weekend’s National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling Championships at the Rochester Community & Technical College’s Regional Sports Center. Competition begins Friday at 9:30 a.m.

As a scholarship-offering program, Iowa Central’s location is a highly useful recruiting tool for wrestlers hoping to advance to a four-year institution, says assistant coach Troy Bennett. The current Tritons roster features competitors from Illinois, California and Oregon.

"We don’t have a major airport, but we have major wrestling programs in the area," he adds.

With all of its competitors qualified for nationals, Iowa Central is viewed as the Division III favorite, though the Tritons must contend with the likes of North Idaho College (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho), Western Wyoming Community College (Rock Springs, Wy.), Northwest College (Powell, Wy.) and Labette Community College (Parsons, Ks.). "We’re hoping to repeat," adds Bennett, "because we’ve never done it."

Likewise, in NJCAA Division I, the 2006 champion, Harper College (Palatine, Ill.), could claim a second consecutive title. Willmar, Minn.-based Ridgewater College is one of the challengers in this field.

A total of 233 wrestlers, representing 43 colleges from 17 different states, qualified for this event.

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The only returning national champion is Raymond Stephens from Waubonsee Community College (Sugar Grove, Ill.). Stephens wrestles in the 125-pound division.

On the web:www.rochsports.com

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