MIAMI — It’s a 50-50 deal for Northeastern A&M coach Joe Renfro after learning pairings for the NJCAA Wrestling Championship.
“I am feeling as good as I usually do after the pairings come out. Some look very advantageous and others appear to be a tough road,” Renfro said as his Norsemen attempt to win a third national title in four years.
“You never can tell from the brackets what you’re going to get in to though, we’ve just have to take care of what we do,” he said.
Brackets were set up in a random draw that was streamed Tuesday afternoon.
The only criteria for the pairings were returning all-Americans were placed on opposite sides of the bracket and regions were separated as much as possible.
Logan Terrill, Dylan Lucas, Saul Ortiz and Ruston Duke all picked up first-round byes at 125, 149, 174 and 197, respectively.
Pairings at the other weights included:
133 — Sean DeShazer vs. Caysen Smith, Barton (Kansas) Community College (Smith had lost to Caleb Basma in a dual here on Nov. 15)
141 — Curtis Burnett vs. Anthony Viscaino, Northland Community & Technical College, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
157 — Alex Nelson vs. Tell Ward, Iowa Western
165 — Wyatt Jordan vs. Justin Anderson, Northeastern Junior College, Sterling, Colorado
184 — Devin Crawl vs. Juwan Anderson, Harper College, Palatine, Illinois
285 — Shawn Beeson vs. Cornell Wilson, Mercyhurst North East, Pennsylvania
“During the tournament, there will be guys losing matches that they weren’t supposed to have lost and others will be winning matches that they weren’t supposed to have won,” Renfro said. “We can’t worry about what is going to happen later on in the bracket because that frequently changes. Our focal point is the first round and our preparation is the same, do what we do best and also exploit our opponents’ weaknesses. Capitalize on every opportunity given and take it if it’s not given. Focus on ourselves and not get caught up in what others are doing.”
The Norsemen – the defending national champions - are one of only five schools that will have all 10 wrestlers in the competition.
That’s down from eight a year ago.
Joining NEO with a full team will be top-ranked Iowa Central, No. 9 Iowa Western, No. 13 Camden County (New Jersey) College, and No. 19 Harper (Illinois) College.
No. 2 Clackamas (Oregon) Community College — which beat the Norsemen for the third straight year in the title match of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Multi-Divisional National Duals in January — only qualified nine wrestlers.
The others with nine are No. 4 Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College, No. 7 Northwest (Wyoming) College, No. 9 Niagara County (New York) Community College, No. 16 Rochester (Minnesota) Community & Technical College and unranked Nassau (New York) Community College and Barton (Kansas) Community College.
Competition begins at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. Action will continue through the championship quarterfinals and fourth round of consolations.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 25, championship semifinal and consolation quarterfinal matches will be wrestled starting at 10:30 p.m. Championship matches will be held starting at 7 p.m.