The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) Golden Norse Wrestling Squad traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to compete in the NJCAA National Championship Wrestling Tournament. Improving on last year’s total, NEO scored 152 points and earned the runner-up spot behind Clackamas, Ore. 133-pound sophomore Boo Dryden and 285-pound freshman Antonio Andrade also earned individual national titles, with 125-pound Mason Naifeh and 149-pound Kendon Lee placing second.
“It’s frustrating to do as well as we did and still not walk away with a Team National Championship, but we came together and wrestled very well last weekend at the tournament,” said Head Coach Joe Renfro. “It was a roller coaster ride, I’m very proud of this group and their accomplishments throughout the year. The experience and relationships we gained throughout our time together outweighs the finish at the 2019 Championships and to say that most of these guys earned a Team Title in 2018 and a Runner-Up finish this year makes them an exceptional group.”
At the 2017-18 National Championship, NEO earned the National Team Title with 147.5 points, beating out Clackamas by 23 points. This year, NEO earned 152 points, but Clackamas accumulated 176.5. Despite the runner-up finish, the program at NEO continued its streak of individual and national titles. Dryden and Andrade picked up their titles through a hard-fought bracket. Dryden, a sophomore from Haysville, Kan., defeated Hector Candelaria from Ellsworth in an 8-5 decision in the championship round.
“I’ve always dreamed of being a national champion at the next level. This national title means the world, it’s what I’ve worked for my whole life,” said Dryden. “Winning the match for me was big. I just told myself I was the best kid in my bracket. My training and coaches were the best, as well. There was a job I needed to get done no matter what.”
Dryden plans to attend a four-year university and continue to compete. Andrade, a freshman from Hollister, Calif., held a commanding grip on the heavyweight division all year. He earned his title by gaining a fall in every match until the championship bout, where he won by a 6-0 decision. For him, the pride of winning for NEO made his title all the sweeter.
“It means a lot taking that national title back to NEO,” he said. “I had a job that needed to be done, my teammates and coaches had faith in me, and that’s all I needed to win that national title. Taking that title match feels like getting all the weight lifted off your shoulders and knowing all that hard work you’ve put in has paid off.”
Renfro was optimistic about the team dynamic and training entering the off-season. He noted that regardless of wins or losses, the group always strives for perfection. “From here we’ll go back to the drawing board and make some minute changes for next season,” he said. “Even if we had won another National Championship, we would still have to address the entire season and make improvements. Progress is what we live by and perfection is what we are seeking. Until we meet that mark, we’ll always have work to do.”
For more information about the NEO Wrestling Program, contact Lisa Severe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Top photo: Antonio Andrade. Bottom photo: Boo Dryden)