Powered by three individual national champions, the North Idaho College wrestling team earned a third-place finish at the NJCAA Wrestling National Championships in Rochester, Minn., Feb. 25. Sophomores Heinrich Barnes (141 pounds), Kyle Sand (184) and Evan Mattingly (197) finished on top of their respective weight classes to earn the first trio of individual championships at the national tournament under head coach Pat Whitcomb. The Cardinals were ranked seventh in the NJCAA wrestling poll heading into the national championships. All three NIC champions had to defeat the No. 1-ranked wrestler in their weight class to win their crowns. Barnes, ranked No. 2, won 13-11 over Iowa Central’s Joe Soto in the championship match. The win avenged two losses to Soto last season, including an 11-5 match loss at the NJCAA national championships. Barnes dominated the final match from the beginning, scoring three takedowns in the first period to take charge and held off a determined Soto in the final period. The South African native finished the season at 40-3, including an undefeated record against junior college opponents, to earn his status as a two-time All-American. Sand, ranked second, entered the tournament with a heavy heart after the passing of his grandmother the week of the tournament. After defeating No. 3-ranked Travis DeGroat of Pima in the semifinals, he faced a familiar opponent in Highline’s Brad Padgett in the finals. Padgett defeated Sand in the Region 18 championship two weeks earlier to earn the region’s Outstanding Wrestler Award. In the NJCAA tournament final, Sand scored two takedowns in the second period after a scoreless first period to take control of the match. Padgett came back to tie the score with 20 seconds left in the contest and Sand only needed an escape to regain the lead. Instead, Sand scored on a reversal and a near fall to win the match 11-6, avenging his earlier defeat and earning his second All-American season. Mattingly faced the toughest odds of the three NIC finalists, facing top-ranked Jamie Luckett of Alfred State College. Luckett, a returning All-American, entered the finals with a career record of 57-3 and was undefeated against junior college competitors this season. Mattingly, ranked fifth, strategically wrestled a conservative match against his stronger opponent and eventually wore him down. Despite not scoring a takedown in the match, Mattingly won 4-3, when Luckett was twice called for stalling. Also placing for the Cardinals and earning All-American status was heavyweight Robbie Shaw, who fell to Labette’s Willie Weber in 6 minutes, 29 seconds to finish in sixth place. Earlier Shaw beat top-ranked Cedric Powell of St. Louis-Meramec to advance to the tournament semifinals. NIC qualified 10 wrestlers for the NJCAA tournament and nine of the Cardinals scored team points to carry the team to its third-place finish. This year marks the 30th time that NIC has earned a top three spot at the NJCAA championships in the 35 year history of the NIC wrestling program. Three teams from Region 18 finished in the top six, NIC (third), Clackamas (fifth) and Southwestern Oregon (sixth). Click here for complete national tournament results.