The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) Golden Norse Wrestlers have reclaimed the NJCAA National Championship, making the third national title in five years. NEO claimed the team lead early and continued gaining points, ultimately finishing 23 points above Clackamas (Ore.). Along with the team title, Sophomore Boo Dryden earned the Bruce Traphagen Award for Most Falls and Coach Joe Renfro was named the NJCAA Coach of the Year. Renfro was pleased with the results and always holds high expectations for his team. “Without trying to sound arrogant, it feels natural. There’s no reason we shouldn’t win a National Title every year, but it’s not easy and it’s never going to be given to us,” said Renfro. “So many things have to go right in order to accomplish that goal and apparently they did this year. Preparations for the following year start the Sunday after the National Tournament, that’s what we were doing last year and it obviously paid off. We’ve started for next season already too. Everything has to be in order and it’s a huge relief whenever it pays off like it did.”
Sophomore Wyatt Jordan from Collinsville, Okla. was the 2017 165-pound national champion and earned the runner-up spot during this event. After last year, Jordan noted that winning an individual title was important, but being part of a national championship team was just as exciting. “I felt like the team came out really strong in the first couple rounds and then took a couple losses we felt we could have won. But the team bounced back on the back side and started providing huge team points and momentum. Which lead us to getting the National title.”
125-pound sophomore Boo Dryden won the Bruce Traphagen Award for Most Falls and agreed that the team championship was as much of a goal as an individual title. “Winning the most falls award was a big accomplishment for me. Earning falls helped me get the momentum rolling for the team and myself after falling short of an individual title. I wanted to make a statement for myself and the team to get the national title.”
Norse Wrestling under Coach Renfro has proven incredibly successful over the past several years and this is due in large part to Renfro’s proven record of success when it comes to promoting hard work and team effort. Since taking over the NEO program in the 2013-14 season, his teams have earned regional championships every single year and earned national championships in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Over the course of his career, Renfro has tallied up six national championships and thirteen regional titles. However, he doesn’t attribute the success to himself. Renfro notes that a strong team bond played a major role in this year’s championship. “The team competed like a family, a family that relies on each other,” said Renfro. “We lost some matches that I don’t believe we should have lost, but the others in the group picked up the pace and filled in the gaps for those mishaps when they happened. This was a complete team effort, from the qualifiers to the rest of the team and even the coaching staff. Many sacrifices were made throughout the year and the ultimate goal was met.”
NEO took ten wrestlers to the tournament and nine earned top ten finishes, while six wrestlers ended up in the top five of their weight class including Brian Andrews (285), Alex Kaufmann (184), Devin Crawl (174), Wyatt Jordan (165), Kendon Lee (149), and Boo Dryden (125).