In April of 2020, a dream that was set in motion eight years ago will start to unfold into reality.
The Doane assistant wrestling coach Ceron Francisco will compete for a chance to be on the 2020 Men’s Olympic freestyle wrestling team.
Francisco came to Doane as a coach because he wanted to train with his former coach Dana Vote, who recently became Doane's head wrestling coach.
Vote and Francisco met at a wrestling tournament in Virginia Beach, VA. At that time, Vote saw potential in Francisco.
“From the very start of the recruiting process, I knew that he had a special talent as far as his love for the sport of wrestling and his athletic ability," Vote said. "That can take him a long way."
It already has.
Francisco kept in contact with Vote and joined him at Concordia University in Seward for his time as an undergraduate student where he was coached by Vote.
“By the end of the (2013) summer I was shucking corn in Nebraska,” Francisco said.
Kodie Cole, graduate assistant for the Doane wrestling team, knows Francisco well. They wrestled together under Vote at Concordia. The two now help Vote coach Doane's wrestling team.
The first time Cole met Francisco, Cole was impressed.
“What stuck out to me the most was probably his size but a quick conversation with him and you realize he’s a real down to earth person,” Cole said.
Despite his size, Francisco was not an accomplished wrestler early in his Concordia career.
According to Concordia's web site, in Francisco’s freshman year, he lost 13 of 18 matches.
Cole said Francisco used that first year as motivation to improve.
“He’s a testimony to if you want something bad enough you have to work for it,” Cole said.
He set to work after his freshman year.
“That summer I focused hard on nutrition and conditioning," Francisco said. "I came back to school already in shape for the season.”
His efforts paid off.
In his sophomore year, Francisco posted a 31-17 record, which put him sixth in the NAIA North division.
He placed fifth at the NAIA national championship.
His junior year, Francisco had a record of 30-15 and placed sixth in the NAIA North division. He fell short of placing at the national championship.
So Francisco dedicated his senior year to improvement. He won the north division and placed second at the national championship meet, losing by only one point in the finals.
Francisco graduated from Concordia in December of 2017 with a degree in special education. He decided to continue his wrestling career at the University of Virginia as a resident athlete.
The University of Virginia is an official Olympic regional training center site.
In his first international tournament, he finished in third place.
“My first international tournament was in Cuba representing the United States and I wrestled for bronze there,” Francisco said.
At Doane, Francisco is inspiring the wrestlers he helps coach.
“It (seeing Ceron) gives hope to my teammates and myself to how good this program could be,” freshman wrestler Michael Scarponi said.
Junior Austin Miller said that Francisco is always there for the team.
“He puts effort into the whole team,” Miller said.
Preparation for the Olympic trials starts Friday for Francisco. On that day, he'll wrestle at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open in New York City.
He hopes to be successful for his family in North Carolina. They're the ones who motivate him.
“I’ve been away from home for so long," he said. "I want to finish what I started."