A majority of Northwest College’s wrestlers and head coach Jim Zeigler have been suspended for the rest of the season and part of the next for a “severe weigh-in violation” last …
A majority of Northwest College’s wrestlers and head coach Jim Zeigler have been suspended for the rest of the season and part of the next for a “severe weigh-in violation” last month.
According to NWC officials, 10 student athletes used an off-campus sauna on March 10, three days before competitions in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. That reportedly violated collegiate wrestling rules regarding weight loss practices, which prohibit the use of saunas “at any time and for any purpose” during the season.
Northwest College officials reported the violations to the NJCAA, and on March 17, officials with the regulatory body informed the college that the wrestlers and Zeigler would be suspended for their next eight scheduled matches. The wrestlers and Zeigler already missed their last regular-season match of the season, as well as their postseason duals, due to the penalty.
The college announced the sanctions on Tuesday.
“Northwest College is committed to NJCAA compliance, athletic excellence, and integrity — the college self-reported the situation to the NJCAA as soon as we became aware of it,” NWC Interim President Lisa Watson said in a statement. “It was disappointing to learn that our players and coach participated in an activity that violates the wrestling rulebook. We continue to work through the effects of the ruling and the path forward for our student athletes.”
In addition to the scrapped meets to end the 2021 season, Zeigler and the participating athletes are set to be suspended for four dates next season. However, college officials will ask the NJCAA to re-review the findings and reduce the suspension for the Trappers’ student athletes, citing “insufficient or incomplete training on the policy,” said NWC spokeswoman Carey Miller.
Meanwhile, those who weren’t involved in the sauna session — the roster lists a total of 15 wrestlers — will not be forced to miss time.
Zeigler declined to comment on the sanctions or the re-review process. He has coached at NWC for 28 seasons. His teams have finished in the top 10 nationally 22 times, and his 2004 squad won the NJCAA National Championship.
Before the sanctions, the Trappers were 3-4 as a team in matches this year. In what was the squad’s final match of the year, they fell 27-9 to Clackamas Community College on March 13.
“As we continue the internal investigation of our wrestling program, we remain committed to improving methods and procedures that support student athlete safety and fair play,” NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the NJCAA to satisfy all infractions.”
The NCAA first banned the use of saunas in 1998 as part of a broader series of rule changes aimed at stopping unsafe weight loss practices in wrestling. There is not unanimous agreement about the ban; as the NCAA itself noted in a 2013 piece, “parts of the wrestling community still question whether to allow saunas for therapeutic purposes.” However, the organization stiffened its penalties for wrestlers and coaches who violate the weight-related rules in 2017, requiring student athletes to miss eight consecutive competitions for a first offense in those areas. The NJCAA follows NCAA rules.
In Tuesday’s statement, Erickson said NWC’s Athletic Department “makes every attempt to adhere to all NJCAA, Region IX, and institutional policies and procedures.”
“We have very high expectations of our staff, coaches, and student athletes,” he said.