Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023-2024 NJCAA The Season: Final Recap


I have been following and reporting on NCAA Division I wrestling since my sophomore year of high school.  Which was, believe it or not, the 2001-2002 season.  It was then I decided that this was the sport I was going to know & I wanted to know it as well as anyone (from a journalistic point of view of course).  Back in those days the internet was in its infancy and I got most of my information by reading Amateur Wrestling News & Wrestling International Newsmagazine from cover to cover.  Truth is for a long time, I didn't follow the smaller Divisions of wrestling because it was very difficult to.  

Then a few years back I realized that there's so much more to collegiate wrestling than NCAA Division I.  The internet provided what I needed, so what was my excuse?  I started to get to know NCAA DII, DIII & NAIA.  So glad I did & I kick myself in the rear for not getting to know these levels of wrestling at a more intimate level sooner.  

Last year I decided it's time to get into NJCAA.  One of my main incentives was that had I wrestled in college, I would have been on the same team with Cole Spree, the head coach at Indian Hills.  I really like Spree & hope to write more about him & the very strong program he's building in Centerville.  Another reason is because so many good wrestlers come out of the NJCAA and into the other Divisions of wrestling.  There's always so much talk about high school and high school recruiting.  Open up your eyes cause a lot of good kids come out of the NJCAA too. 

I will make some complaints though, because they're warranted and they're justified. I refuse to cover CCCAA because it's so damn cryptic and out of date, that you can't cover the division.  This is '23-'24 and there are schools who still have '20-'21 as their most updated roster! How in the heck is someone supposed to work with that!?!?!?  Finding results is like pulling teeth.   The NJCAA is a little better, but I'm sorry to report, not a lot better.  Some teams have it together.  NIACC for example.  Pictures, results, the whole kit and kaboodle.  Others, they list the kid's name.  No results. No information.  Not even a photograph.  I'm sorry, but that doesn't cut it.   Some have suggested to me not to use the team's personal pages, but to instead use track.  Well guess what? The info is lacking at Track a lot too.  Not Track's fault by the way. Not blaming Track.  Love Track & Track is a great tool. Have nothing but praise for the website & how much help it has been to me.  Just want to make that clear before I get accused of saying something I never said. 

It's been an exhausting season for me.  I have NCWA people on my back to start doing NCWA coverage and I know cause some have came out and told me, that I've outright ticked some people off by not  starting coverage of women's wrestling.  I don't know if people realize this or not, but Johnnythompsonnum1 is not a group of individuals.  Now I do use a lot of sources and I'll thank everyone of them.  Britt Malinsky aka The Seton Hall Pirate has been a great help to me.  The people of Wrestlestat have been a Godsend.  Aaron Sweazy and Josh & Justin the Portillo Brothers often help out with information when I can't seem to find what I'm looking for.  However, at the end of the day, this is all one person, me, Stephen Stonebraker.  All the time, the effort, the's all me and only me.   That isn't to brag.  That is to simply make you aware.   

At the end of the year, when tax season rolls around, I make about $2,400 a year covering wrestling.  About $200 a month is what I generate for what I do on Johnnythompsonnum1.  If you add up the hours I put into it all, I would imagine I probably average about $0.02 an hour.  I have no money to put into this and I make pretty much enough to barely cover gas to attend events.  So when people moan about my website not looking professional enough, or about something petty like a spelling error, I frankly do not give a (rhymes with hit).   I operate on a budget that cannot even afford a shoe-string.  I neglect my gf & my pets far too often from October through March.  I've given a lot of myself to this sport and I'm not sure because of some happenings in my life, if I'll be able to do as much next year.  We'll see. 

I'm sorry for my rant, but I feel like it is necessary because while I've gotten some thank you's for what I've been able to do for NJCAA this year, I've also been attacked by a few NJCAA reps and I felt a need to defend myself.  A need to explain where I'm coming from.  I think some are under the impression that JT#1 is a group of people. It isn't.  Everything you see comes from me.  

Ok, I think I've said my peace....Onward to my final recap of NJCAA '23-'24 

Ricks Ends NJCAA Career Two Time All American 

4th last year & 2nd this year, I am really excited to see if Bridger Ricks ends up with brother Garrett at Wyoming. It's always so much fun to see where guys end up after their time in NJCAA is said and done.  Anxious to see if he becomes a Cowboy in '24-'25. 

Two Great Coaches, Two Great NJCAA Tournament Showings

Knowing what I know about Cole Spree, I know he'd tell me that his Warriors could have done better. I think they did pretty good. All in all Coach Spree crowned four All Americans and another 4 made the R12.  He sent all 10 varsity wrestlers to the NJCAA championships & 8/10 made the top 12.  I'd say that's something worth talking about. 

Now I realize that we have our dominate teams of Western Wyoming & Iowa Central, ect but let's take a moment to really reflect on what Coach Terry Pack was able to accomplish this season among those powerhouse programs.  Southeast is in their very first year of collegiate wrestling.  My opinion of course, but I think that the Plains District is either the toughest, or one of the toughest Districts in all of the NJCAA. Pratt was able to get 9 wrestlers to the NJCAA tournament! 9!  Again, this is the first year of the program!  Crowns three All Americans, including putting one in the finals.  That's knowing how to build something from scratch if I've ever seen it.  Anxious to see if Southeast can keep him around.  There are other programs out there looking for someone than can build from the ground up like that. Wouldn't surprise me if Pack has already gotten some phone calls. 

Anthony Schickel Two Time NJCAA All American 

Another program with another great Coach that produces a ton of talent is Triton.  Year after year you see those wrestling for Triton earning all sorts of accolades & then you also see a lot of former Triton stars doing well at the bigger divisions of wrestling once their time in NJCAA has come to an end.  Anthony Schickel now has finishes of 5th and 3rd in the NJCAA nation.  Anxious to see where he ends up next year. 

Cody Phelps NJCAA Champion 

3rd in the NJCAA nation last year, Cody Phelps ended his time at Western Wyoming an NJCAA champion.  I have no inside information, but I can't help but wonder if maybe he might end up at Wyoming, if indeed that's where teammate Bridger Ricks ends up.  At this point it is a pure guess, with nothing more than intuition behind it. It'll be fun to see how things end up. 

Two Time NJCAA Runner-Up

I do not know the answer to this question, but I'd be really curious to know how many wrestlers who never won an NJCAA title go on to win titles at the DI, DII, DIII or NAIA schools that they later attend.  I know that it has happened in the past.  T.J. Williams for example, who won two titles DI titles for Iowa, did not win an NJCAA title.  I bring this question up because I can see this being the case for Easton Taylor of Pratt one day.  He made the NJCAA finals twice, but came up a little short each time.  Anxious to see where he ends up next and how he does. 

Most Dominate Wrestler in NJCAA Ends A Two Time Champion

I'd be outright shocked if Matt Sarbo doesn't end up NCAA Division I next season.  As good as the two time NJCAA champ is & as dominant as he's been, I just can't see him anywhere other than DI.  I say he goes DI & I see he has an immediate impact.  I would say by December, he's ranked in the top twenty.  I really believe that. He is that good. 

Never A Finalist in H.S. To an NJCAA Finalist

Did you know that Jaden Two Lance never made a final while wrestling in high school.  Collected three Texas High School State championships bronze medals, but never did make a final. Had he not been in the same bracket as Matt Sarbo of Iowa Central, I think he might have won the NJCAA title this year.  He's only a freshman & for Carl Albert State's sake, I hope he sticks around for another year of NJCAA wrestling.  However a kid this good is gonna be hard to keep.  Other schools are going to want him.  

Bronze & Silver For Ketchum 

So many greats in NJCAA wrestling that end up not winning titles. Kris Ketchum of Nassau is one of them.  Ended time in NJCAA with a 3rd place finish last year & a 2nd place finish this year.  Anxious to see where he ends up next season.  Like I said about Taylor, another wrestler you could see winning a DII, DIII or NAIA title in the future. Could very well end up DI too.  It'll be fun to see. 

Bronze & Silver For Atkins 

Congrats to Austin Raby of Clackamas, but I really thought Cayleb Atkins would win the NJCAA title this year. I really did.  Nevertheless 3rd last year and 2nd this year, what a great NJCAA career it was for Atkins.  Very anxious to see where he ends up next.  Will he return to Appalachian State now that he has two years of experience down?  Gotta love pondering of this kind of stuff. What I do know is that wherever he ends up, we're gonna hear a lot more out of him. That's for sure. 

Freeman Once Again One Match Short of AA Honors

'22-'23 was my first year of really taking a deep look into NJCAA wrestling and Geoff Freeman was one of the first wrestlers who caught my eye.  I was quite shocked when he didn't place at last year's NJCAA championships & it really shocked me when he once again came up a match short this year.  I really hope that doesn't hurt him on the recruiting front. I hope there are some coaches out there that see the potential that he has within him to do great things over the next two seasons for another program.  Which in turn leads me to another question. 

I wonder how many wrestlers who failed to place at the NJCAA championships, end up earning All Americans at another division of collegiate wrestling. I personally don't know any examples, but I'm sure they exist.  I wouldn't be the least be surprised if this doesn't describe Geoff Freeman in a year or two. 


As always could say more, but these are the main thoughts I had in my first year of doing NJCAA coverage.  It's been fun getting to know some of these wrestlers this year. Would love it if the tools and resources to do NJCAA coverage would improve next year, so that I myself can improve on what I do for NJCAA. 

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