Neosho County Community College’s wrestlers have been scoring points since late January in the COVID-19-delayed 2021 season.
NCCC’s program currently sits at 1-3 in duals, including a 36-19 win over Colby Community College and a 51-4 loss to Cowley Community College on Feb. 2 in Arkansas City. There are new and experienced wrestlers contributing this year, a campaign that follows a 9-8 season in which four wrestlers advanced to the National Tournament.
Freshman Junior Camacho (125 pounds) out of Maize starts things off for NCCC. While Camacho is a State placer, he didn’t wrestle his senior year because of shoulder surgery. Still, he often has set the winning tone early on for the Panthers.
Sophomore Kolton Smith (132) from Bridge Creek, Okla. is a returning National qualifier. Smith, who has a shoulder injury, didn’t wrestle in NCCC’s latest competitions versus Northwest Kansas Technical College and Barton Community College on Tuesday, but is expected back next week.
There are two NCCC wrestlers fighting for the 141-pound weight class. Sophomore Ethan Ewing out of Wellsville, a returning National qualifier, and freshman Morgan Potts from Lee Summit, Mo. are competing hard for the position, which is making the decision very difficult for fourth-year NCCC head coach Nick Nothern.
Chanute natives Sam Son, a sophomore, and freshman Logan McDonald are competing for the 149-weight class. The third wrestler in the equation is freshman Jose Centeno out of Altus, Okla. Son is working to cut weight in an effort to compete with McDonald, who was a four-time State qualifier and a two-time State placer for the Blue Comets.
McDonald’s twin brother, freshman Brady McDonald (157), and freshman Jake Knowles out of El Dorado are in a back-and-forth for the next weight class starting spot. Both wrestlers are multiple State placers in high school; McDonald was a three-time State placer and a four-time State qualifier at CHS.
Brady McDonald said he enjoys his hometown experience while also noting the difference between high school and college wrestling.
“It’s very cool because you get to stay in your hometown and compete at a higher level, and your hometown folks can follow along still, but the downside is you don’t have your hometown buddies that you grew up wrestling with,” he said. “The biggest difference that I have noticed is every match is a tough-fought match. No match is easy and you have to work hard for the whole match.”
Sophomore and Chanute native Dalton Misener (165), also a former Blue Comet, is currently in the 165-pound weight class, but Nothern said he is cutting weight to compete in the 157-pound division.
Sophomore Tyson Villalpando (174) out of Minneapolis, Kan. occupies the next weight class. Villalpando is another returning National qualifier and is ranked No. 4 in the country. Villalpando has a rib injury right now, however.
Next up are freshman Logan Allen from Garnett and freshman Walker Lowdermilk out of Sabetha competing for the 184-pound weight class. Allen has developed into a formidable wrestler this year, while Lowdermilk, another State placer in high school, also has the talents to excel this season for the Panthers.
Sophomore Ryan Murphy out of Wichita is a returning starter who had a fruitful 2020. Nothern expects him to advance to the National Tournament and to potentially become an All-American. Murphy, however, has been out for the last week due to illness.
At heavyweight is freshman Logan A. McDonald from Clay Center, who has been splitting time with freshman Emmanuell Briggs out of Paterson, NJ. Nothern said these two have also been going back and forth for that starting position.
“Right now it’s been hard to get back in shape, not just for us, but for every team and coach I talk to,” Nothern said. “They came back in January and started competing – three weeks later. They had three weeks to get into shape, so there still getting into shape, which may be the reason we have some injuries. The goal right now is to get them in shape and get them more mat time. I think if we continue to develop and get better, we’ll be in position where we have multiple guys in the National Tournament. I have no doubt.”
Nothern’s team will have at least 10 competitions before the National Tournament, which will be in late April this year. The goal in these meets is to get as many wrestlers on the mat as possible in preparation for next year.
Overall, there will be eight weigh-in dates and a few tournaments outside the KJCCC conference.
NCCC (1-3) faced Northwest and Barton on Tuesday. The next competitions will be versus Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Labette Community College next Tuesday 4 and 6 pm at Panther Gymnasium.