CONCORDIA, Kansas — Anticipation surrounding the inaugural season for the Cloud County Community College wrestling program has been building since the launched of the program was announced in the summer of 2016.
A 17-month wait comes to an end at 9 a.m. Saturday, November 4 when the T-Birds open up their 2017-18 schedule at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, IA.
"We're feeling good and it's always good to wrestle against somebody else besides your own guys in the wrestling room," said Cloud County head coach, Chris Freije. "We're pretty excited to finally get out there and put all the hard work to use. It's an exciting time of year."
Cloud County currently has 21 wrestlers on its roster, 15 of which are Kansas products, and all of whom Freije said can challenge for one of the 10 starting spots.
"I know it's a very cliché thing to say, but we feel very comfortable with whichever 10 guys we'll put out there," Freije said. "We brought in guys we feel can all reach the podium, get to the national tournament, and compete at a high level there."
"All three of those guys are local guys and all have a good shot at getting in the lineup and being our guys," Freije said.
The T-Birds will spend the month of November primarily building up their endurance and experience for that national tournament experience as they compete in three opens and the Kansas Wesleyan Tri-Meet (Nov. 29), sandwiched around the team's introduction to the home crowd on Nov. 9 with its Black and Gold Scrimmage.
"This time of year is about getting our tournament legs underneath us and getting some of the best competition we can so we can prepare for that conference dual schedule and, down the road, the postseason," Freije said. "We're going to let our guys compete against those upper-level division guys to kind of market themselves against that competition to possibly find them homes after they leave here."
Cloud County will compete in its first Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) dual on Dec. 5 on the road against Northwest Kansas Technical College. It hosts all four of its home duals this season in the month of January, starting with Neosho County Community College at 6 p.m. on January 5.
That stretch run in January with give Freije, and assistant coach Cody Cole, an idea of the 10 guys they will suit up to take to the West-Central District Tournament, hosted by Arkansas Baptist on Feb. 10.
Coaches of member schools are still in discussion about the methods to qualify for the NJCAA National Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 23-24 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but each district can qualify up to 70% of total participants.
"We'll bring our roster of 10, wrestle through the tournament and see where everything falls," Freije said.
It's a long road to the finish line and ultimate goal of reaching the podium at the national tournament. But Freije believes the inaugural season for the T-Birds can certainly be a memorable one if his team can stay focused on the present, day-to-day process.
"We've preached to the guys daily, weekly about doing what they can do to compete for a national championship, individually," Freije said. "That's something we're really focused on; the process of getting there and doing what you can do every day to put yourself in the best position. We're not focused so much on where we're going to be at the end of the year as opposed to where are we at the end of the day, the end of a workout. We move along from there."