(Photo from left: Jacobe Smith, back-to-back national champion; Blake Andrews, heavyweight national champion; Dawaylon Barnes, 157 lb. class national champion; Coach Joe Renfro, NJCAA Coach of the Year.)
Wrestlers at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) have earned their second national championship in three years. Competing at the NJCAA National Tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa, ten NEO wrestlers under Coach Joe Renfro and Assistant Coach Dennis Siegmann won 37 individual matches to beat Iowa Central by 24.5 points. Of the ten wrestlers, seven placed in the top five in their weight class and three earned individual national championships. NEO wrestlers Jacobe Smith, Dawaylon Barnes, and Blake Andrews earned the individual titles.
Smith, who with his win is now a back-to-back national champion, also earned the Ernest B. Gould Outstanding Wrestler Award. “It really makes you feel good about yourself,” said Smith. “I try be to as respectful as I can on and off the mat. I think people really respond to the way you carry yourself. I actually won a similar award in high school and it was always my goal to win one in college too, so this means a lot.” Smith, from Muskogee, Okla., competed in the 174 lb. class and finished his year with an overall record of 40-2 and 26 pins.
Dawaylon Barnes, also from Muskogee, competed in the 157 lb. class and earned his title after a 5-2 decision. During the tournament, Barnes faced three ranked wrestlers and pinned the number one in the quarterfinals. He finished 38-7 on the year. “Overall, I’m happy with my performance,” said Barnes. “When I look at where I came from at the beginning of the year, I’m happy about how far I’ve come. I feel like I’m at the end of a book and it had a good ending, now I focus on finishing out this year.”
Blake Andrews, the heavyweight from Grapevine, Texas earned his championship through several tough matches. Andrews went 4-0 in the tournament and faced three ranked competitors. “When I was in high school, I was a little guy so the speed carried with me,” said Andrews. “I like to wrestle a different style of heavyweight and it worked for me. Now I have some college visits, but I’m not sure yet where I am going.”
Among the awards, Mitchell Sellers from Tahlequah, Okla. also won the Bruce Traphagen Award for the most pins in the least amount of time. Coach Renfro was also awarded the Coach of the Year. On the team this year, Renfro coached nine All-Americans and six Academic All-Americans, bringing his career total to 85 All-Americans and 85 Academic All-Americans. “It feels pretty good to earn this award, but it’s not mine, it’s something the guys earned for me,” said Renfro. “Every year the goal is the same for the teams at NEO, we want to win a national title. This year there were some points we should’ve scored, but that just means there is always room to improve. I’m just excited that the guys reached the goal that we set out early this year.”
NEO has now earned two national titles in three year and Smith has won back-to-back individual national championships, but Coach Renfro argues that improvements are made year-round. “This year’s team is probably the best team I’ve ever had, but I’m not counting out any of the teams I’ve had before, but a lot of our guys are leaving,” continued Renfro. “Coach Siegmann and I got up on Sunday in Council Bluffs and went to church together and we were already talking about the things we need to change or how the lineup will change. There are a lot of different things to look at, but we are already working to find ways to stay on top next year.” “
Joe Renfro, his coaching staff, and wrestlers are to be congratulated for bringing the 2016 National Championship back to NEO and Miami,” said Dale Patterson, NEO athletic director. “Coach Renfro and his staff have built a wrestling program that is second to none on the mat, on campus, and in the classroom. We are very proud to have Coach Renfro at NEO.”
Seven other NEO wrestlers competed alongside the three individual champions: 125 lb. freshman Logan Terrill from Arkansas City, Kan., 133 lb. freshman Curtis Burnett from Independence, Kan., 141 lb. sophomore Mitchell Sellers from Tahlequah, Okla., 149 lb. sophomore Kristian Holguin-Mendez from Sapulpa, Okla., 165 lb. freshman Saul Ortiz from Wichita Heights, Kan., 184 lb. redshirt sophomore Jacob Hill from Augusta, Kan., and 197 lb. sophomore Josh Latham from Chickasha, Okla.