NEO wrestling preps for national title run after abbreviated season

The Norsemen only had 8 duals in the regular season.

MIAMI, Okla. – It’s been a late and abbreviated season for NEO wrestling – but the end goal is the same as always.

“We’re always looking for the national championship,” says head coach Joe Renfro, “That’s the first thing we talk about when they get on campus, and it’s the last thing we talk about whenever they leave campus.”

“We’re shooting for the national title,” says Dan Baker, the #1-ranked junior college heavyweight, “Whether it’s districts, regionals, an open tournament or a dual, we shoot to win.”

The Norsemen have only competed in about half the number of competitions of a normal regular season due to the pandemic – competing in only 8 duals.

“We really haven’t been able to find that groove yet with our practices, because it’s just so sporadic,” Renfro says.

“It’s really hard to replicate live matches in a practice room,” Baker says.

“It’s hard to get a groove going. It’s hard to find your momentum and keep running with it during that situation,” Renfro adds, “They’re working through it. Everybody is in the same thing. Nobody is any different. Nobody has a competitive edge in this situation.”

The NJCAA has canceled district championships scheduled for next week.

That leaves the 7X defending district champs without what is normally their final tune-up before nationals.

“It’s going to affect us a lot. Normally our last competition is our regional competition, two weeks later we’re at the national tournament,” Renfro says, “Not having that situation in front of us, it’s going to be different. We’re going to have to figure out ways to manipulate our full potential.”

With no qualifying tournament nationals will have a different feel.

“Everybody that wants to go can take one wrestler per weight class. So everybody qualifies,” Renfro says of the national championships.

“It’s really going to be a shot in the dark,” Baker adds, “I don’t know whether my bracket will be bigger, or it might even be smaller. We just don’t know how many teams are going to be able to show up to nationals.”

“We got a good group of guys and they’re working really hard,” Renfro finishes, “I think they know this is the final push here. We’ll see if we made mistakes and if the mistakes were too big and we’ll re-evaluate at the end of the year.”

The NJCAA wrestling national championships are scheduled for April 21-22 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.