North Idaho College wrestling victory takes on a different tone as coach preps for new president role

<p><p>COEUR D’ALENE – The second match of the season for North Idaho College’s wrestling team might have been the last this year for the squad’s head coach, Michael Sebaaly.</p></p><p><p>If so, then Sebaaly ended on a high note Friday, as the Cardinals took a 21-20 win in a dual meet against Montana State University Northern. The Cardinals’ first home match of the year will be the only such contest for Sebaaly, who will leave his coaching job temporarily for a new gig: NIC’s interim college president.</p></p><p><p>“It’s nice to get back into the swing of things after the year last year was,” Sebaaly said after Friday’s match. “The kids learned, they got a little bit better and we got to see where they were with some things.”</p></p><p><p>Sebaaly was chosen by the college board of trustees to serve in the role during a national search for a new president to replace Rick MacLennan, who was fired by the board in September. He was formally introduced at another board of trustees meeting Wednesday.</p></p><p><p>Sebaaly is set to take the role no later than Nov. 10, by which time the college is expected to have selected an interim wrestling coach to fill the void. The Cardinals have one meet between now and then – a Nov. 7 quad at the University of Northern Colorado.</p></p><p><p>After that, NIC’s season continues through February for qualifiers to participate in the NJCAA National Tournament in March. According to the college’s job posting, Sebaaly’s end date is contingent on the selection of a full-time president.</p></p><p><p>“The only thing that was nerve-wracking at the meeting (Wednesday) is when the lights came on me,” Sebaaly said, referring to his introductory remarks. “Those are the moments in wrestling that we rise up to. That’s what we teach these kids. They’re going out there and they’re battling by themselves. … They win and they lose out there by themselves.</p></p><p><p>“The difference here is we’re going to win and lose with this team, and we’ve got a great group of faculty and staff. We’ve got amazing people at NIC that just have to come in and take care of their stuff. And if we can take care of our things, it’ll be OK in the end.”</p></p><p><p>More than 100 people looked on Friday as Sebaaly and the Cardinals went to work, winning the meet with a pin in the final match by heavyweight Cohle Feliciano.</p></p><p><p>Sebaaly, in his third year as coach for the Cardinals, said the match felt no different than the hundreds he’s coached during his collegiate career.</p></p><p><p>“I’ve got to get one good call out of him,” he shouted jokingly at one point about the refereeing. “This is my last home match.”</p></p><p><p>NIC board of trustees Chair Todd Banducci was among those in the crowd Friday. Banducci, Vice Chair Greg McKenzie and Trustee Michael Barnes commanded the interim president selection process, electing to hire internally.</p></p><p><p>The three <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/oct/27/no-communication-applicants-for-north-idaho-colleg” target=”_blank”>have faced criticism</a> from fellow trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard, as well as a number of students, staff and other NIC community members, for how they’ve handled the process. Notably, Wood and Howard have accused the board majority of watering down the job requirements and overlooking more qualified candidates in a show of nepotism.</p></p><p><p>Sebaaly <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/oct/27/leadership-is-leadership-incoming-north-idaho-coll” target=”_blank”>has a doctorate</a> in educational leadership at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, though he has no other college leadership experience beyond his time as a wrestling coach, according to his online athletics bio.</p></p><p><p>“He does a good job of leading us, so I don’t see why he can’t lead a larger group,” Cardinals wrestler Alex Lopez said. “I’d say at first, just give him a chance. He’s new to this school in general, so I feel like some people haven’t given him a fair shake even as a coach.”</p></p><p><p>Lopez and Feliciano, third-year members of the NIC squad, said Sebaaly likes to keep things light, fun and varied, in that the team is not working on the same thing every day.</p></p><p><p>Feliciano said Sebaaly’s style of coaching is different than what he experienced in high school; Sebaaly “likes to have a lot more fun when it comes to cutting weight,” for example. Feliciano also called him “a handball MVP.”</p></p><p><p>“When we have fun, most of the time, you don’t even notice you’re working hard,” he said. “We’re just so amped up, we just get after it.”</p></p><p><p>The team found out about Sebaaly’s selection to the interim president’s role during a practice the morning after the board made its choice.</p></p><p><p>While the Cardinals aren’t sure who will be coaching them when the national tournament rolls around, Feliciano said he’s not worried at all about their squad.</p></p><p><p>“A bunch of us are young, so I don’t think any of them are going to be fazed by it. I know I’m not going to be fazed by it,” he said, “and an old assistant coach actually texted me and said, this is a time when we have to step up and be leaders.”</p></p>