By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Three Neosho student-athletes signed letters of intent Friday to continue their athletic careers in college.
Montana Drum agreed to wrestle at Missouri Baptist University, which competes in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association.
Tyler Johnson, an outfielder, signed to play baseball at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, and Nate Rodriguez signed to wrestle at Ouachita Baptist University.
Drum was a finalist in the 125-pound weight class at the USA Wrestling Girls Folkstyle Nationals on March 31 at Oklahoma City University. She placed third at 109 pounds in 2010.
“I want to study exercise science,” Drum said. “They told me I could intern with the Rams and the Cardinals, so that’s what I want to do — physical therapy.”
Drum’s interest in wrestling, like most successful high school wrestlers, began at an early age.
“I had an older brother who wrestled,” Drum said. “My dad was joking around and said, ‘Do you want to wrestle?’, and I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘You can next year when you turn five.’ ”
Drum, whose parents are Todd and Becky Drum, said she was thankful for her teammates and the coaching staff at Neosho, led by head coach Jeremy Phillips.
“I honestly don’t think I would have stuck with wrestling if it wasn’t for the coaches,” Drum said. “If I didn’t wrestle with the boys, I would be nowhere wrestling against my own sex.”
Phillips said Drum showed her competitive nature at an early age. “She’s a very determined young lady,” he said. “She always seemed to have that desire to find a way. She has always had that competitive will.”
Johnson is still involved in Neosho’s baseball efforts this spring. The Wildcats, 11-5, are preparing for the Class 5, District 12 tournament May 11-14 at Willard, which includes Carthage, Joplin, Republic and Webb City.
“This year in baseball, we came together as a team, but the best is still ahead of us,” Johnson said.
“Neosho baseball has a pretty healthy relationship with North Central,” said Johnson, whose parents are Vance and Angie Johnson. “Their whole philosophy has hooked me to the university.
“I’m looking to get my basics out of the way and eventually I want to be a civil engineer.”
Rodriguez will be reunited with former Neosho teammate Dallas Smith at Ouachita Baptist, an NCAA Division II school in Arkadelphia, Ark.
Rodriguez won a school-record 210 matches and was Neosho’s first three-time state champion and four-time state finalist.
“The main reason I chose Ouachita Baptist is pre-med,” Rodriguez said. “I feel confident I want to go into pre-med. They’re really good in the sciences such as biology and chemistry.”
Neosho won three Class 3 wrestling team state championships in Rodriguez’s four-year career. “He has not only made a name for himself, there’s not another wrestler who has been a part of our three state titles,” Phillips said.
“He’s a young man who is a great example that you get out of something what you put into it,” he said. “His combination of heart and commitment — there hasn’t been a comparable wrestler in my coaching tenure.”
His parents are Robert and Gina Rodriguez. He said his love of the outdoors was another reason he chose Ouachita Baptist.
“I like going out in the outdoors,” he said. “I have terrible luck fishing, absolutely terrible, but I do enjoy it, just having fun.”