GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. - Don't count the Iowa Central wrestling squad out just yet.
The five-time defending NJCAA champions captured another regional title here Sunday, advancing nine of their 10 wrestlers to the upcoming national tournament to bolster their chances of pushing for gold again.
Head coach Luke Moffitt's 10th-ranked squad didn't have the dominant regular season fans have come to expect, but yesterday, the Tritons were at their best.
''It's by far the best we've looked this year,'' Moffitt said. ''I'm really happy with our effort. We've been up and down, but stayed the course and really focused on peaking at the right time.
''Through hard work and preparation, I think we're getting there.''
Freshman Josh Heinzer (125 pounds), freshman Brandon Wright (133), sophomore Carl Foreside (174), sophomore Nick Pica (197) and sophomore Seth McGregor (heavyweight) all earned regional crowns. Iowa Central accumulated 130 team points, finishing ahead of Iowa Lakes (116) and Ellsworth (104).
Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jason Trushcheff was a runner-up at 165 pounds, as was Kolton Kersten (184). Seth Stender (141) and Ryan Davis (149) advanced with third-place showings.
''Our guys wrestled tough,'' Moffitt said. ''We were a bit more of an unknown heading into the postseason than we have been in years past, but they answered the call.
''I still think this can be a dangerous group that's capable of making another run at it if they wrestle up to their potential.''
Even though nine Tritons moved on, this did mark the first time in Moffitt's seven-year tenure that one of his competitors failed to qualify for nationals.
The national tournament is Feb. 25-26 in Spokane, Wash. Iowa Central captured an unprecedented fifth straight championship last season in Des Moines. Pica was fourth at his weight nationally a year ago.