COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — It is crunch time for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M wrestling team.
The Golden Norse travel to snowy Council Bluffs Friday and Saturday for the 2019 NJCAA Championships in search of a fourth title.
The only rub is that it’s an odd year and all three of the titles have come in even-numbered years — 2018, 2016 and 2014.
NEO has been third in 2017 and fifth in 2015.
“We’ve got a lot of built-up hype about never winning it in an odd year,” Norse coach Joe Renfro said. “And we’ve got some unfinished business with a couple schools there where we’ve definitely done our part by winning matches. We’ve beaten Clackamas, we’ve beaten Iowa Central and we’ve beaten Northwest Tech here (in the NEO Duals in January) and still have the No. 2 ranking.
“I guess for some it is justifiable, but not for us.”
The top six teams in the final regular season poll — No. 1 Clackamas (Oregon) Community College, No. 2 NEO, No. 3 Northwest Kansas Tech, 4 Iowa Central, No. 5 Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College and No. 6 Western Wyoming — all will have 10 wrestlers in the field as well as ninth-ranked Harper (Illinois) College.
Iowa Central, Iowa Lakes, Northeastern (Colorado) Junior College and Cloud County (Kansas) CC have nine qualifiers while Niagara County (New York) CC, Nassau (New York) CC, Mercyhurst North East, Lackawanna (Pennsylvania) College, Muskegon (Michigan) CC, Triton (Illinois) College and Cowley (Kansas) CC have eight apiece.
All qualifying seven are Jamestown (New York) CC, Middlesex County (New Jersey) College, North Idaho, Southwestern Oregon, Barton (Kansas) CC and Neosho County (Kansas) CC.
The Norse scored 147.5 points to win the title here in ’18. Clackamas was second with 124.5 and Iowa Central tallied 121.
Nine of NEO’s 10 wrestlers made it to the medal platform on the final day of competition.
Wyatt Jordan was second at 165 pounds, Kendon Lee and Brian Andrews finished third at 149 and heavyweight, respectively; Boo Dryden and Devin Crawl claimed fourth at 125 and 174, respectively; Alex Kauffman was fifth at 184, Jack Karstetter and Zeke Silva, seventh at 133 and 197, respectively, and Cody Karstetter, eighth at 141.
Dryden received the tournament’s most falls award with five.
Dryden, Kauffman, Silva and Lee are making a second straight national tournament appearance.
Silva, Zach Porter and Antonio Andrade finished first in the West Central District qualifier at Parsons, Kansas.
Porter and Andrade are ranked No. 1 nationally while Zeke Silva is fourth.
NEO had five others finish second, Mason Naifeh, Boo Dryden, Corbin Nirschl, Kendon Lee and Alex Kauffman, and Kyle Caldwell and Kalin Winkler were third.
First round preliminaries will be at 9:30 a.m. Friday with second round prelims and first and second round consolation matches following at noon.
The championship quarterfinals and third and fourth round consolation get under way at 6:15 p.m.
Championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals will be wrestled Saturday morning with the consolation semis at noon.
Third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches are scheduled for 1:15 p.m.
Championship finals are set for 7 p.m.
The tournament will be streamed on Flowrestling.com.