The Neosho County Panthers welcomed wrestlers to Panther Gymnasium for the NJCAA South Central District Championships on Saturday. Three Panthers placed top-six and qualified for the national tournament, as the squad finished tied for ninth.
“We didn’t have much fight on Saturday,” Neosho County head coach Matt Hansen said. “The focus for the next three weeks is on those three guys in every aspect, and getting them to perform at their highest level for the national tournament.”
Sophomore Junior Camacho was the best finisher for Neosho County, finishing fifth at 125 pounds. Camacho notched a first-period fall over Colby’s Tyler Fields in the quarterfinals, before suffering the same fate in the semifinals. The Wichita native surrendered a 4-0 decision in the consolation semifinals, before recording another fall against Fields in the fifth place match.
Sophomore Ryland Wright finished sixth, but had to defend that placing to continue to nationals. Wright received a bye and forfeit to the semifinals, giving up a third-period fall in that match. After losing his way to a sixth place finish, RT Noel of Carl Albert State challenged Wright for his sixth place finish, but the Panther grabbed a first period fall in the bout.
At 165-pounds, sophomore Jake Knowles had to fight through the backside of the bracket for his podium finish. After losing in a sudden-victory, 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals, Knowles recorded a 3-1 decision of his own over Matthan Mason of Carl Albert State. Knowles then took a pair of decision losses on his way to a sixth place finish.
“We do mental training every week. At this point in the season, it's almost everyday,” Hansen said of the trio’s mental focus going into the national tournament. “You’ve gotta be focused mentally on the performance, not the outcome. Focusing on the outcome creates anxiety.”
Freshman Buddy Claibourn (197 pounds) finished seventh, but was unable to challenge for sixth, having lost to Kaden Glass of Pratt earlier in the day.
Sophomore Kael Lane rounded out the podium finishers with an eighth-place finish, a win shy of a national tournament berth.
“We’ll also focus on recruiting this summer,” Hansen said. “Next season we’re gonna have to build from the ground up.”
Neosho County now has a bit of a break before its season finale. The Panthers are back in action on March 3 for the NJCAA National Championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“Three weeks is a lot of time to get stuff done,” Hansen said. “Hopefully we can get a couple of guys on the podium. Any one of those guys can be All-Americans, but they’ll have to perform better than they did on Saturday.”
125: 5th - Junior Camacho (2-2)
133: DNP - Jesse Hall (0-2)
141: 6th - Ryland Wright (2-3)
149: DNP - Jace Tapia (0-2)
157: DNP - Maze Mickens (0-2)
165: 6th - Jake Knowles (2-2)
184: 8th - Kael Lane (1-3)
197: 7th - Buddy Claibourn (1-3)
285: DNP - Jasper Dewey (0-2)
Team Scores: Pratt 187, NE Oklahoma 154, NW Kansas Tech 123.5, Cloud 105.5, Labette 100.5, Carl Albert State 99, Colby 88.5, Cowley 81, Neosho County 41.5, Barton 41.5
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