Saint John’s returns to the mat with a trio of duals this Saturday, Jan. 28 at Augsburg. SJU is scheduled to face No. 18 Concordia-Moorhead (10 a.m.), St. Olaf (noon) and the second-ranked Auggies at Si Melby Hall in Minneapolis.
-Head coach Brandon Novak (3:01)
A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Augustana (S.D.), ranked fifth nationally in NCAA Division II, jumped out to a 17-0 lead en route to a 23-13 win over then-No. 9 Saint John’s on Jan. 14 in Collegeville. Nationally-ranked wrestlers swept the first four matches for the Vikings, including a pin and two major decisions. Jason Jeremiason, ranked second in Division II, escaped Collegeville with a narrow 3-0 win over senior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer). Sophomore Brandon Seppelt (Foley, Minn.) brought the home crowd to its feet with an exciting 3-1 win in the second sudden victory period of overtime over Augustana’s Marcus Edgington, ranked third nationally, at 157 pounds. Seppelt is now 15-6 on the year, including an 8-3 record in matches decided by three points or less. The overtime victory is his third of the season. Junior Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn./Totino-Grace) collected 5:57 of riding time and shut out his opponent with an 8-0 major decision victory at 165 pounds. The Vikings’ Carl Serck, ranked fourth nationally, eked out a close 6-4 win over senior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) at 174. Down 3-2 with 10 seconds left in the match, junior Mitch Hagen’s (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) desperation shot turned into a takedown for Jayd Docken in a 5-2 loss at 184 pounds. Senior Dustin Baxter (Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley), ranked second in Division III, improved to 19-0 on the season with a 7-3 win at 197 pounds. Sophomore John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) ended the dual on a winning note for SJU (6-5 dual record) with an 8-4 decision at heavyweight.
NATIONAL RANKINGS: SJU moved up one spot to No. 8 in the Brute-Adidas National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division lll poll released Jan. 24. Baxter is ranked second nationally at 197 pounds in both the NWCA and D3wrestle.com rankings. Hagen moved up one spot to No. 5 in the NWCA 184-pound rankings but was unranked by D3wrestle.com. He is 14-4 on the year. Pfarr stayed at No. 8 (NWCA) and No. 10 (D3wrestle.com) at 174 pounds, respectively. He is 12-6 on the season. Henle is ranked ninth at 133 pounds by D3wrestle.com and is 14-7 on the season. Junior Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn./Totino-Grace) was left out of the national polls for the third straight set of rankings. He is 17-6 on the season. Twelve of his 17 victories are bonus-point wins, including six pins (four major decisions and two technical falls).
STACKED WEIGHTS: Saturday’s duals will be a bit interesting for SJU wrestlers at a number of weights. Henle aims to make some hay at 133 pounds, as the senior All-American may get a crack at fifth-ranked Daron Hohbein of Concordia-Moorhead and seventh-ranked Tom Kuehn of Augsburg. Henle tallied an 8-5 win over Hohbein at last year’s dual in Perham. The Johnnies’ 141-pounder, sophomore Alex Peck (Edina, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s), will face sixth-ranked Will Keeter (Augsburg) and seventh-ranked Ryan Timmerman (St. Olaf). Schuler may have an opportunity to avenge his loss to second-ranked Orlando Ponce of Augsburg at 165 pounds. Schuler lost to Ponce 13-7 in the opening round of the Citrus Classic a month ago. Baxter, meanwhile, will most likely face a pair of wrestlers aiming for an upset, fourth-ranked Brad Baus (Augsburg) and fifth-ranked Nate Schmitz (Concordia), at 197. He edged Baus with a 3-2 decision at the Augsburg Open earlier this season (Nov. 19). Baus defeated Baxter with a 3-1 decision in the Auggies’ 20-19 dual win last season. The Johnnies could face a pair of top-ranked wrestlers in the Augsburg dual, as the Auggies’ Tony Valek and Chad Johnson share the No. 1 ranking at 149 pounds and heavyweight, respectively.