SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Saint John’s earned seven national entrants with a second-place finish out of 15 teams at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Saturday, Feb. 26, in Sheboygan, Wis. The second-place finish and seven tournament-bound student-athletes are both program bests.
The 2011 NCAA Division III Championships are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 12, in La Crosse, Wis.
Augsburg won its eighth consecutive NCAA regional with a total of 153.5 points, followed by SJU (125.5) and Concordia-Moorhead (124). Both the Auggies and Johnnies recorded three champions each. SJU managed to accumulate 125.5 points despite not having a wrestler at 125 pounds.
The Johnnies, however, led all participating schools with seven entrants; followed by Augsburg and Concordia with five each (Concordia also has one alternate). SJU set a school record with three Great Lakes regional champions, breaking the old mark of two set in 2009 (Mogi Baatar and Minga Batsukh). The Johnnies have now qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships 21 of the last 22 seasons. The previous record for most entrants in a single season was six, set in 1983 (NAIA) and 1998 (NCAA), head coach Brandon Novak’s sophomore season.
Senior Minga Batsukh (22-1 record; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia/St. Benedict’s Prep, N.J.) became the eighth Johnnie in school history to make four national tournament appearances with a 5-2 win over Augsburg’s Tony Valek in the 149-pound championship match. The region title is the second of his career and first since he won the 141-pound bracket in 2009. Following a first-round bye, Batsukh posted a win by injury default and a technical fall in the semis before the championship victory.
Senior Matt Baarson (24-3 record; Brooklyn Park, Minn./Champlin Park), the top-ranked wrestler at 165 pounds, will make his third consecutive trip to nationals after winning the regional tournament. He allowed three points the entire day, posting two technical falls and back-to-back 5-0 wins, including the shutout of St. Olaf’s Josef Waples in the title bout.
Senior Chris Sandy (21-5 record; Spirit Lake, Iowa) earned a trip to nationals by winning the 141-pound bracket. The No. 2 seed, Sandy received a first-round bye and posted a 15-4 major decision before earning a narrow 6-5 victory in the semis. He then defeated St. Olaf’s Ryan Timmerman 9-3 in the championship match.
Junior Matt Pfarr (26-7 record; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) earned a spot at the national meet with a second-place finish at 174. He recorded a major decision, pin and an 8-6 decision in the semifinal match before falling to third-ranked Zach Molitor of Augsburg, 4-3. He then posted a 4-1 win in the true-second match to stamp his ticket without the use of a wild-card bid.
Senior Tony Willaert (20-10 record; North Mankato, Minn./Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial) will make his first trip to nationals in two weeks after finished second at 197 pounds. He amassed two pins and an 8-1 decision in the semis before falling to second-ranked Jared Massey from Augsburg in the championship match, 11-2.
Junior Dustin Baxter (21-7; Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) received an at-large bid after finishing second at 184 pounds. He won a pair of close matches before falling to top-ranked Phil Moenkedick from Concordia-Moorhead in the title match. He then dropped the true-second match by a score of 7-3. Baxter led the majority of the match until he allowed a takedown and back points as time expired.
Junior Chad Henle (23-8 record; Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) earned the Johnnies’ second at-large bid to bring the total to seven after finishing third at 133 pounds. He won his first match before falling to Concordia-Moorhead’s Daron Hohbein via pin with one minute left in the match. He cruised through wrestlebacks, however, posting back-to-back major decisions to claim third.
Senior Drew Larson (13-9 record; Willmar, Minn.) claimed fourth at 157 pounds after battling back in wrestlebacks. He won his first match but fell to Isaac Roberson of Lakeland (Wis.) in the quarterfinals. Larson won two more consolation matches before falling to Roberson again, 2-1, in the third-place match. Roberson earned an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Junior John Linn (8-14 record; Foley, Minn.) won his first match at heavyweight, a 4-1 win over the fifth seed, but lost the quarterfinal match to Augsburg’s Chad Johnson. He earned a pin in his first consolation match and was eliminated by a narrow 3-1 decision to the eventual fifth-place winner.