The sixth-ranked Johnnie wrestling team returns to Wisconsin for the Duals at the Dells this Friday, Dec. 9. SJU is scheduled to face No. 15 Wisconsin-Whitewater at 6:30 p.m., followed by No. 2 Wisconsin-La Crosse at 8 p.m. at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
-Head coach Brandon Novak (1:25)
A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s posted a 2-1 record at the Wisconsin-La Crosse Duals last Saturday. The Johnnies started the morning with a 28-12 win over No. 25 Wisconsin-Stevens Point before falling to No. 5 Cornell (Iowa), 21-15. SJU ended the day with a 26-12 win over Loras (Iowa). SJU claimed six wins against Stevens Point, including four major decisions and a pin. The tide turned, however, as fifth-ranked Cornell (Iowa) won five of its first six matches against the Johnnies. SJU lost three matches by two points or less. Senior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer), ranked as high as No. 3 by the NWCA, bounced back from an early-morning loss to earn a 5-3 overtime victory. Junior Chris Stevermer (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) suffered a tough 6-5 loss to No. 2 Nicholas Loughlin 157 pounds and sophomore Brandon Seppelt (Foley, Minn.) dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 4 Joe Hambleton at 165. Down 18-3, head coach Brandon Novak decided to bump his upper weights up a class. Junior Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn./Totino-Grace), ranked sixth at 165 pounds, posted a 10-2 major decision at 174. Senior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson), ranked second at 174, followed suit with a 12-4 major decision at 184. Junior Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) lost a tough 4-3 decision at 197. He is ranked ninth nationally at 184. Senior Dustin Baxter (Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) ended the dual with a 14-4 major decision at heavyweight.
Baxter ended the day 3-0 with three major decisions, while Pfarr posted a 2-0 mark at 184 pounds. Henle and Stevermer each went 2-1 with narrow losses to ranked wrestlers. Stevermer registered a pair of pins aside from his one-point loss to the second-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds.
A LOOK AT THE WARHAWKS: The Warhawks currently boast two nationally-ranked wrestlers, Jake Fredrickson (No. 8) at 133 pounds and Corey Anderson (No. 3) at heavyweight. UWW went 4-0 at the Comet Duals hosted by Olivet (Mich.) Dec. 3. Whitewater defeated Manchester of Indiana (28-12), No. 23 Ohio Northern (23-14), Alma of Michigan (35-9), and Bridgewater of Virginia (31-6).
A LOOK AT THE EAGLES: Wisconsin-La Crosse improved to 9-1 on the season with a 24-21 victory over Luther (Iowa) Dec. 7. Adam Sheley, ranked second in NCAA Division III at 133 pounds, won by major decision (11-1) and Bebeto Yewah, top-ranked at 141, earned a win by fall (1:20) to give UW-L a 10-5 lead. Luther’s Stephan De La Cruz won by injury default over UW-L’s Brady Schrupp at 149 to give the Norse an 11-10 advantage, but the Eagles captured the next four matches to take a 24-11 lead. J.R. Lewis won by major decision (14-4) at 157-pounds; Kevin O’Brien won by decision (6-3) at 165; Mike Schmitz won by decision (10-4) at 174 and Grant Miller won by major decision (14-5) at 184. Schmitz is currently ranked No. 1 in the country at 174 pounds. The Norse tallied a pin and a major decision to end the dual.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Henle is scheduled to have a competitive night as both of his opponents will be nationally-ranked: La Crosse’s Adam Sheley is ranked second, while Whitewater’s Jake Fredrickson is ranked eighth. The nightcap’s showdown at 174 between second-ranked Pfarr from SJU and top-ranked Mike Schmitz from La Crosse should be a good one. Schmitz tallied a third-period escape to win last year’s meeting, 3-2.
LAST YEAR AT THE DELLS: Then-No. 5 Saint John’s upset No. 2 Wisconsin-La Crosse 21-17 and swept the Duals at the Dells with a 29-9 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater in the nightcap last Dec. 10. La Crosse jumped out to 14-0 lead through the first three matches, but SJU claimed wins in six of the next seven weights to earn the dual victory. Pfarr wrestled his first match after cutting down to 174 pounds and nearly upset the top-ranked wrestler in the nation, falling 3-2 to No. 1 Mike Schmitz via a third-period escape. Pfarr entered the match ranked ninth at 184 pounds. A pin from Baxter at 184 pounds cut SJU’s deficit to 17-15 before Hagen gave the Johnnies their first lead of the match. Hagen bumped up to 197 pounds and earned a 14-10 decision over the Eagles’ John Poppie. The dual’s decision came down to the final match between Tony Willaert ’11 and UWL’s Billy Mayer. The previous season, Willaert bumped up to heavyweight and upset La Crosse’s Dan Laurent, a two-time national champion and the nation’s top-ranked heavyweight, by major decision, 15-4. Willaert’s showcase was much closer this year, as the senior posted a 6-5 decision to seal the win for SJU. Mayer was penalized for stalling twice and Willaert snatched a takedown late to clinch the victory.