MIAMI — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M looks for its first-ever title at the National Wrestling Coaches Association Multi-Divisional National Duals, which run Thursday and Friday at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The Norsemen, who enter the massive tournament as the top-ranked team in the NJCAA, were second in 2015 and third in 2016.
“We’ve had a long and somewhat grueling training session since we got back from Christmas break, but I feel the guys are ready to get out of Miami and strike up some different competition.” Golden Norse coach Joe Renfro said. “Even with a couple guys out of the line-up, I feel pretty confident with the group.”
Curtis Burnett, who is third at 141 pounds according to InterMat (which handles rankings for the NJCAA), could miss the tournament with a shoulder injury.
“His shoulder is bothering him pretty bad, but I don’t think it’s too serious,” Renfro said. “It’s not a dislocation or break, so we will just have to play it by ear.”
Renfro said either Sean DeShazer or Caleb Basma will bump up to 141. DeShazer is ranked fifth nationally at 133 pounds.
NEO’s other representatives in the tournament will be No. 2 Logan Terrill and Cody Randall at 125; Dylan Lucas and No. 3 Dusty Hayden, 149; No. 4 Alex Nelson, 157; No. 4 Wyatt Jordan, 165; No. 6 Saul Ortiz and Sam Dawes, 174; No. 7 Devin Crawl, 184; No. 4 Ruston Duke and Gus Boyd, 197, and No. 2 Shawn Beeson, 285.
“Injury and eligibility hit all teams and we’re certainly not immune to that,” Renfro said. “Fortunately, the entire team is working very hard and we’ll fill in the gaps as best as possible for National Duals.”
A total of 86 teams in five divisions will be on hand for the event, which is dubbed Mat Mayhem and is presented by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Fourteen of the 16 NJCAA programs in the field are ranked.
The only ones not included are Northwest Wyoming Community College and Muskegon (Michigan) Community College, and Muskegon received votes, but not enough to break into the top 20.
The Golden Norsemen open the tournament against 17th-ranked Northwest Kansas Technical College at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Also at 9 a.m., it’s No. 16 Western Wyoming College vs. No. 11 Niagara County (New York) Community College; No. 3 Iowa Lakes Community College vs. No. 13 Harper (Illinois) College, and Muskegon vs. No. 5 Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College.
Then at 11 a.m., it’s No. 3 Iowa Western Community College vs. No. 9 Lincoln (Illinois) College; No. 18 Barton (Kansas) Community College vs. No. 6 Clackamas (Oregon) Community College; Northwest Wyoming vs. No. 20 Nassau (New York) Community College, and No. 20 Colby (Kansas) Community College vs. No. 2 Iowa Central Community College.
“Hopefully we can stand up to our ranking up to this point in the year and our seed in the tournament and come home with a national dual title,” Renfro said.
The top three teams in each of the other divisions will be on hand:
NCAA Division II — 1, St. Cloud (Minnesota) State University; 2, Maryville (Missouri) University; 3, Notre Dame (Ohio) College
NCAA Division III — 1, Wartburg (Iowa) College; 2, Wabash (Indiana) College; 3, Ithaca (New York) College.
NAIA — 1, Grand View (Iowa) University; 2; Indiana Institute of Technology; 3 Williams Baptist (Arkansas) College
Women — 1, King (Tennessee) University; 2, Campbellsville (Kentucky) University; 3, McKendree (Illinois) University
NAIA No. 6 Oklahoma City also in the field.