DELHI TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Mount St. Joseph University wrestlers Cornell Beachem Jr. and Antonio McCloud are preparing for an opportunity of a lifetime this weekend.
Beachem (174 pounds) and McCloud (184 pounds) are trying to become the first national champion in any sport in school history at the NCAA Division III wrestling tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"Both of these guys are very talented," MSJ coach Charles Mason said. "They're very driven from within. If they do what they're supposed to do, block out the outside noise, I have no doubt that they can win a national title."
That defined purpose and focus will not be a problem for either wrestler.
Beachem, a 2018 Winton Woods High School graduate, is undefeated (18-0) as the nation's No. 1 ranked wrestler in his weight class. Despite the accolades, Beachem is keeping his father, Cornell Beachem Sr., on his mind this week during final preparations.
Beachem Sr. died in early January at the age of 52. If Beachem wins a national title on Saturday night, it will be dedicated to his late father.
"I think about him all the time," Beachem said. "Mostly I think about him after practice because usually I would FaceTime him and let him know how practice went. And not just being able to call him after tournaments like regionals it's sad. I really don't have anybody to call."
MSJ coaches and teammates did their best to support Beachem throughout the season.
"You just got to be there," McCloud said. "Show him that you're there for him and just try not to dwell on it. It's hard not to dwell on things like that especially losing a parent."
McCloud, an Elder graduate, is a three-time national qualifier and has just one loss at 184 pounds this season. He is also dealing with a personal loss, mourning a friend who died in a car accident this weekend.
"It made me realize that life is short," McCloud said. "And that things happen to good people. Bad things happen to good people so I don't know how else to explain that."
The tournament starts Friday.