By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
Four years ago, Carl Junction was starting its girls tennis program and Emily Cook was learning the game. Four years later, Cook is set to play tennis in college.
Cook, alongside her parents Greg and Susie Cook, signed her letter of intent Wednesday at Carl Junction High School to play tennis at Evangel University.
Moment’s earlier, Carl Junction’s Nick Koon, the son of George and Patricia, signed to wrestle at the newly created program at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“When we first started the program four years ago, no one had any experience coming in,” Carl Junction girls tennis coach Ryan Odaffer said. “So it was a brand new situation for all of them. They had never played. For her to go from never picking up a racket to being a college level player in four years, that just shows how hard she worked. It shows how much time and effort she put in, and she has earned the right to play college tennis. Now that she’s there, I know she’s going to continue that same work ethic.”
Cook was team captain as a junior and senior. She won the Big 8 Conference championship in doubles as a sophomore and the conference singles title as a senior.
A member of First Baptist Church in Carl Junction, Cook said she is excited about attending Evangel.
“It’s a Christian school, and I feel like that’s a really good environment for me,” she said. “They contacted me and made me feel very welcome to their program.”
Koon is joining a new program at NEO, but it isn’t your typical start-up. The college is building a $1.3 million facility to house its wrestling program and hired Joe Renfro, who won three national championships at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan., as the head coach. He has earned national coach of the year honors four times.
“It’s a great to be a part of a new program and to be with a back-to-back coach of the year,” Koon said. “I’m excited to start my career.”
Koon was a four-time state qualifier at four different weight classes for the Bulldogs. A team captain his junior and senior seasons, Koon earned two state medals and more than 140 wins in his career.
Koon began wrestling at 7 years old.
“He’s always had a good work ethic,” Carl Junction wrestling coach Jeremy Finley said. “He’s been a staple of our program. He’s been involved with wrestling for a very long time. I think he can succeed at the college level.”
The Golden Norsemen have signed 35 wrestlers so far and are anticipating about 10 or 15 more commits.
Renfro said only time will tell which weight will be best for Koon.
“We’re flexible,” Renfro said. “He’s thinking a lighter weight, a 141. I’m thinking by the time we’re done with him we’re going to be a 149-pounder or even a 157-pounder. He’s got a very good frame on him, and we’ll see how it works out. We got to lift a lift a lot, which is what we do at our program. My thought is eat right, lift as hard as you can, get as strong as you can and whatever weight you weigh is what weight we’ll wrestle at.”