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Eric Sabot escapes an attempted lock-up by Niagara wrestler Bill Morello during the National Junior Collegiate Wrestling Championships in Rochester, Minn., on Feb. 28.
Trapper Eric Sabot manhandles Bill Morello of Niagara Community College during the quarterfinal match for the 141-pound title. Sabot won the match in a 5-3 decision.
After five grueling matches, Trapper Eric Sabot is exhausted but excited as the referee declares him 141-pound class champion on Feb. 28.

— Photographs by Seth McConnell

Eric Sabot fights to victory
By Jay Acker

Eric Sabot had a bye in the first round of the tournament to face nationally fourth-ranked Wilmar Esteban from Muskegon to defeat him in the second round with a close score of 12-10.
Sabot was quickly introduced to the intensity of the national tournament when Esteban immediately manhandled him, scoring a two-point takedown while Sabot earned one point for an escape. Once he escaped, Sabot scored two points of his own on a takedown and gave up one when Esteban escaped from his grasp.
Within 30 seconds of the first period the match was tied at three points each. By the end of the first period they would do it all over again to bring the score to 6-6.
In the last minute of the second period Sabot scored an escape, 7-6, then finally started to get the upper hand as his opponent tired for another takedown to end the second period with Sabot up nine points to Esteban’s seven. Esteban managed a one-point escape as time expired.
With seconds left in the match Esteban had a one-point lead, 9-10, and was riding out the match on top of Sabot. With 10 seconds left, Sabot tried but couldn’t get away, it wasn’t until three seconds were left in the third round that Sabot finally struggled to his feet for an escape to tie the match 10-10.In the last 10 seconds of the extra minute of wrestling, Sabot managed a two-point takedown to win the match 12-10.
Sabot won his third round 5-3, then quarterfinal match 13-3 to earn a championship match against Dustin May from Labette. May was a four time state champion from Kansas in high school. His college record this year was 11 wins and two losses. Sabot, however, was undefeated against junior college opponents all year
Coach Jim Zeigler said the biggest challenge he had coaching Eric Sabot was keeping him calm throughout a tournament.
“He has a lot of nervous energy,” said Zeigler. “I have to calm him down to make sure he stays still so he doesn’t burn himself up before he wrestles.“That was the factor in his first match and also in his last match. The energy spent before the match he got more fatigued in the match than he ordinarily does. His desire, conditioning, those things took over and his talent put him on top.” The two wrestlers were evenly matched and no grappler scored until less than a minute was left in the second period when Sabot earned an escape from the bottom position to take a one to zero lead.
Halfway through the third period, May was the next to score earning a one-point escape of his own to tie the score with one minute and 30 seconds left in the match.
The two wrestlers took turns circling each other and shooting for the leg but can’t do anything with it. Thirty seconds left, then 24 and May grabs Sabots leg and they both spin around on the mat but May can’t get the upper hand and earn a takedown.
Then with four seconds left in the match Sabot gets inside and wraps both arms around May’s thigh, lifts him up and throws him down hard for a two-point take down, the win and the national championship.
Then Sabot completely lost his composure and cried.
“His last-second victory was tremendously emotional for all of us,” said Zeigler. “What a relief, the overwhelming response. His emotions just pushed out. It was such a relief for him.”