State Colleges

Nelson caps big year with national crown

By Monday, Labette County wrestler Chase Nelson had yet to update his voicemail.

It still said he was "trying to bring home the national championship."

"The funny thing is that's been my message since the before the season even started," Nelson said. "I might just leave it on that, actually."

Nelson was on a recruiting trip to Hofstra University on Monday after winning a NJCAA Division I national title on Saturday, defeating Harper's Luke Roth 17-6 in the 157-pound final at Des Moines, Iowa, and finishing the season with a 41-2 record.

Nelson, a freshman from Wichita Heights, also helped lead the Cardinals to a runner-up finish in Division I behind Iowa Central, which won its fifth straight national title.

"I guess I was a little nervous before the (finals) match, because the guy was lanky; and I have trouble with the lanky ones," Nelson said. "But once I got him in my first headlock and got some points off it, the butterflies went away."

The Cardinals have finished in the top five at the national tournament the last six years, including another runner-up finish in 2007 and a national title in 2005.

"We've kind of stuck around there and been Iowa Central's nemesis," said eighth-year Labette coach Joe Renfro. "Considering the amount of talent they pull in compared to what we have, we feel like we give them a pretty good run."

Nelson won a state championship for Heights at 135 pounds in 2008 and finished second at 171 pounds in 2009.

"Chase is a very unique individual, very headstrong and very determined," Renfro said. "I think we've had wrestlers that were more talented, but his determination is something else. Like I said, he's unique."

Nelson hoped to land at a Division I school out of high school; but when offers didn't materialize, Heights coach Mike Church guided him toward Labette.

Now, having already qualified academically, Nelson can either transfer to a Division I school or come back and try to be Renfro's second two-time national champion. Coffeyville product Earl Jones went back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.

"My goal has always been to go somewhere big," Nelson said. "Which means there's a good chance I'll be leaving."