NJCAA lightens sanctions against NWC wrestlers

Posted 6/22/21

NJCAA sanctions against Northwest College wrestling have been eased. College officials announced Thursday that the 10 Trapper wrestlers who used an off-campus sauna in March will not be forced to …

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NJCAA lightens sanctions against NWC wrestlers

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NJCAA sanctions against Northwest College wrestling have been eased. College officials announced Thursday that the 10 Trapper wrestlers who used an off-campus sauna in March will not be forced to miss time next year and can instead return to competition.

Though saunas can be used for therapeutic purposes, collegiate wrestling rules prohibit their use “at any time and for any purpose” during the season. The blanket ban stems from a 1998 NCAA ruling aimed at eliminating unsafe weight-loss practices within the sport. The NJCAA called the Trappers’ mid-season sauna use — which was self-reported by NWC officials — a “severe weigh-in violation.”

Initially, the NJCAA suspended the 10 student athletes and head coach Jim Zeigler for their next eight scheduled matches. The sanctions forced the Trapper wrestlers to miss their last regular-season match of the season plus postseason duals — and the punishment was set to continue into the 2021-22 campaign. However, NWC officials appealed the student-athletes’ suspensions, citing “insufficient or incomplete training on the policy,” and the NJCAA recently agreed to lighten their punishments.

NWC Interim President Lisa Watson said the school will take proper measures to ensure the student-athletes have a full understanding of the collegiate wrestling guidelines. 

“I wanted to thank those of you who spoke with us after the infraction occurred so that we could better understand what occurred and attempt to move through the appropriate process to address the situation and learn from this event,” she said. “Going forward, we will be taking formalized, proactive steps designed to ensure all our coaches and student-athletes are educated on the NJCAA handbook, NCAA wrestling rules (as applicable), health, safety and weight management.”

Zeigler’s suspension remains active and he will miss five dates next season, but he welcomed the reduced punishments for his wrestlers.

“I am very pleased that the student-athletes are not going to be punished any further,” the coach said Monday. “In my opinion, none of them were at fault in this situation.”

Zeigler also said the school’s administration didn’t update him about the appeal process until the NJCAA made a decision.

“I will tell you that I received word on this matter simultaneously to the wrestlers that President Watson has not spoken to me about,” he said. “I received word by email simultaneously.”

After press time, NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson said he was very grateful the NJCAA took our appeal into consideration and cut the suspension in half for the student-athletes.

I will be working closely with Coach Zeigler and President Watson to make sure we are in compliance with the NJCAA as we move forward,” Erickson said.

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