COLLEGE GOLF: Wranglers ready for another shot at national championship

The Odessa College men’s golf team will continue its annual tradition of playing at the NJCAA National Championship and they won’t have to go too far for this year’s tournament.

Next week, the Wranglers will compete at the four-day tournament, beginning on Tuesday before finishing up on Friday at Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, N.M.

Hoping to add to the program’s rich tradition, the Wranglers, who are currently ranked No. 1 overall, will be looking to win their first national championship since 2017 and tenth overall in school history.

Last year, the Wranglers finished national runner-up, coming up short against Indian Hills Community College by 11 strokes.

This year’s team has been on a mission under first-year head coach Brad Stracke, who took over last summer after the retirement of longtime former Odessa College head coach Paul Chavez.

“The goal has always been to make nationals and stay competitive on the national scene,” Stracke said. “I’m proud of the golfers and what we’ve done so far but the goal is to win it all.”

The Wranglers won the South Central District Championship on April 30 in San Angelo after shooting 24 under par over the 54-hole event.

Scores from that tournament were taken from the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Championship, the Southwest Championship and the South Central District Championship to decide the winner.

In addition to winning the South Central District Championship, the Wranglers also won the NJCAA Region V Championship, the Southwest Championship and the WJCAC title.

“The guys have competed well the entire year,” Stracke said. “They’ve won six tournaments. They’re ranked number one in the country. They’ve been really consistent throughout the year.”

The Wranglers have been led by Sungyeop Cho and Adam Bresnu throughout the season and have been ranked in the top four individually in the country.

“They’ve played some amazing golf their entire year,” Stracke said.

Stracke also pointed out Chase Williams’ improvement this season.

“He’s really progressed and improved a lot throughout the year and at times, he’s shown that he’s one of the best in the country,” Stracke said. “Those three have really stood out.”

Logan Vargas has also been in the top five on the team while Corley McLernon and Janis Erll have also stood out.

“McLernon has played steady and Janis Erll has come on late and played some great golf for us,” Stracke said. “It’s a nice overall team and we have some guys who can really play and that’s what makes a good team. You have to have six guys who can play.”

The preparation for nationals has been the same as it has been all season for the Wranglers.

“All we’re doing is working on the same things and prepare the best that we can,” Stracke said. “Basically, this is another tournament for us. I know it’s nationals, but it’s the same prep and the same everything. It’s another tournament that we’re going into and hoping to do our best and come out on top.”

Odessa College will be seeing many of the same faces that they’ve had all year at the national tournament including Midland College, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, while defending national champions Indian Hills Community College will also be back. No. 4 New Mexico Junior College is another tough squad and will be playing at its home course.

“A lot of our competition, we’ve faced the same teams throughout the year with Midland and New Mexico and then Indian Hills has a good team,” Stracke said. “Hutchinson has a lot of sophomores on its team and they play really good. It’s going to be difficult to win it all, but I believe our guys are ready and prepared for the task.”

Facing those same teams over the season should benefit the Wranglers.

“I think it helps that the guys know where they’re at and they know they don’t have to be perfect,” Stracke said. “They just have to play their normal game and if they have a bad shot, then it’s not the end of the world and they can come back and still win. It adds to their confidence and I think they’re ready to go.”

Unsurprisingly, the Rockwind Golf Links is a course the Wranglers are well-familiar with, having competed there at the USW Spring Invitational from April 1-2 and the WJCAC Qualifier on April 9.

The Wranglers won’t complain about being close to home for nationals.

“I like it,” Stracke said. “I can make the drive and then get back and fly out the next day for the women’s national championship (in Melbourne, Fla.). It makes it really easy for me to get to both events.”