MIAMI — The “real” season starts Saturday for the Northeastern A&M wrestling team.
After wrestling in 13 open and two duals tournaments, the Golden Norse will compete in the NJCAA West Central District Championships Saturday, Feb. 22 at the NEO Field House.
Competition in the nine-team field will begin at 9 a.m. and continue through the championship round that is expected to start around 6:30 p.m.
This is the first time for NEO to have a chance to host the event, which is a qualifier for the NJCAA Wrestling Championship which will be held March 6-7 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Eight of the nine teams entered are ranked by the NJCAA Wrestling Coaches Association:
NEO and Arkansas Baptist will be joined in the field by eight teams from the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (Region VI) — County, Neosho County, Barton County, Pratt, Northwest Kansas Tech, Colby, Cloud County and Labette.
Arkansas Baptist is the only team that isn’t ranked.
NEO is seventh, Cowley and Neosho County are tied for 17th with Henry Ford (Michigan) College, Barton is 20th, Pratt is 22nd, Northwest Tech is 23rd and tied with Highline (Washington) College and Triton (Illinois) College, Colby is 25th, Cloud 28th and Labette is 29th.
Five NEO wrestlers are in the InterMat top 10 among community colleges.
Mikey Mascarenas and Blake Gonzalez are second at 133 and 141, Jayden Smith is third at 174, Dan Baker is sixth at heavyweight and Jon Trowbridge 10th at 157.
Others expected to be in the Norse lineup are Luke Montgomery, 125; Shawn Tillman, 149; Scott Radke, 165; Josh Molinar, 184, and Colben Dodson, 197.
“All of them are coming around,” Norse coach Joe Renfro said. “It’s about the time they need to do that. I still don’t think we’ve performed as a team yet, the best team that could have think that is understandable, but at the same time, this would be a good weekend where we built those guidelines up with each other and understand ‘this is a team race and we have to do everything we possibly can.”
Northeastern A&M has advanced all 10 of its wrestlers to the national tournament every year since the program was brought back in 2013.
The Norse have won national titles in 2018, 2016 and 2014 and have been second in 2019, third in 2017, fifth in 2015.
“It’s a situation when we get to the national tournament and look at the brackets we’ve wrestled in as far as the bigger opens and there’s no different people involved,” Renfro said. “You are not going to find a stronger kid at our national tournament than an OSU guy, an OU guy or a Missouri guy, a Southern Illinois guy or Northern Illinois. We’ve wrestled Iowa guys, Iowa State and Minnesota. We’ve wrestled guys that are going to be good and we’ve seen them all year. ‘We just have to approach it like ‘this guy isn’t any better you’ve wrestled.’”
Wrestlers expected to be in the field who are in the InterMat individual rankings are:
123 — Michael Spangler, Pratt 10th
133 — Mikey Mascarenas, NEO, 2nd; Jack Karstetter, Labette 10th
141 — Blake Gonzalez NEO, 2nd; Drew Burgoon, Barton, 9th; Rush Fannon, Colby, 10th
157 — Dino Blades Colby 8th, Gable Howerton, Barton, 9th; Jon Trowbridge, NEO, 10th
165 — Andrew Dearmond, Barton 10th
174 — Tyson Villalpando, Neosho, 2nd; Jayden Smith, NEO 3rd
184 — Otis Peeler, Cowley, 2nd; Jacari Deal, Northwest Tech, 8th
Joey Ewart, Baton 9th
Hwt — Dan Baker, NEO 6th
Seventy percent of the wrestlers in each bracket advance to the national tournament. Renfro anticipates that to be five in each weight class.