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From the Mat to the History Books, Dalton Abney’s Final Battle for Legendary Status

Four-time All-American. Three-time national finalist. Two-time national champion. That’s what Dalton Abney accomplished during a phenomenal Central Oklahoma career that appeared over at the end of the 2022-23 season.

And yet… 

The NCAA didn’t count the 2020-21 season due to the COVID pandemic, so Abney was eligible to return in 2023-24. A chance to become UCO’s first – and probably only – five-time All-American. An opportunity for a third national title, joining a short list of four others in the school’s illustrious history who have won at least three. A shot at helping lead the Bronchos to a second consecutive team title.

And yet…

It wasn’t as easy a decision as some might think.

“This time last year I was done, my mind was made up,” Abney said. “When school was out and summer started I still didn’t think I was coming back. I was working and wasn’t really doing anything, but then I started missing wrestling.

“What actually got me to really miss it was when I went to train at a jiu-jitsu gym just to roll around. It gave me an itch and I was like, ‘this is still pretty fun.’

So Abney opted to come back to the Bronchos and hasn’t regretted it a bit. He’s seen limited action in an attempt to keep his oft-injured body fresh and enters this weekend’s NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships as the No. 1 seed at 197 pounds with a spotless 14-0 record.

“The back half of my career I’ve been banged up,” said Dalton, who is a sensational 86-6 with 44 bonus-point wins at UCO. “I was dealing with three, four, sometimes five different things at once, especially last year. That was one of the things about me coming back. Coach (Todd Steidley) told me I didn’t have to wrestle much, if any, in the first semester.

“That made it easier for me with my weight, not having to keep it down, and I could come to practice fat and happy and really grind.”

Abney wrestled in just one one-semester dual, scoring a 19-4 technical fall in the first period. He competed in 10 of UCO’s 13 second-semester duals and then won three matches in capturing his third straight Regional IV championship.

And now comes the chance at making history in becoming a five-time All-American.

“It’s something that hasn’t been done here, but honestly I can say I don’t really care about that,” Abney said. “I know all my family does and not to say it’s not important because it is a big achievement, but I still don’t even really care about it.

“I guess it will be in the history books forever, but there’s a lot of other people at UCO that would have done it if they had the opportunity. I was just in the right time to do it. I just want to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities and if that’s the outcome, that’s the outcome.”

Abney came to Edmond lightly recruited despite enjoying a stellar career at Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, where he went 105-5 as a three-time state finalist.

“I broke my ankle in the first football game of my senior year on the second-to-last play of the game,” Abney said. “I was always football all through high school and didn’t really focus on wrestling until after I broke my ankle….

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