SJU Travels to Sheboygan for NCAA Great Lakes Regional Saturday

The nationally-ranked Saint John’s wrestling team is set to compete at the 2011 NCAA Great Lakes Regional, hosted by Lakeland College (Wis.), this Saturday, Feb. 26. The meet is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Sheboygan, Wis. – Regional Website

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: The Johnnies have compiled a 13-6 dual meet record so far this season. Saint John’s claimed first and/or second in four weights to finish third out of 15 teams at the Wisconsin-Eau Claire Invitational two weeks ago. Senior Chris Sandy (Spirit Lake, Iowa) cruised through the 141-pound bracket with two pins and back-to-back technical falls, including a 16-0 decision over Augsburg’s Will Keeter in the championship match. Junior Dustin Baxter (Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley), ranked seventh nationally at 184, went 3-0 before double-forfeiting against teammate Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) in the championship match. Baxter avenged his 3-1 loss to No. 6 Brad Baus of Augsburg on Jan. 28 with a 6-3 victory in the semifinals. Hagen, meanwhile, went 3-0 with wins over No. 10 Greg Rhodes of Wabash (Ind.) and top-seeded Todd Becker of Wartburg (Iowa). Junior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson), ranked fourth nationally at 174, posted a 3-0 record before falling to Luke Rynish of Wisconsin-Parkside, the top-ranked wrestler in Division II, 7-3. Senior Tony Willaert (North Mankato, Minn./Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial) collected two pins and a technical fall before falling to No. 2 Jared Massey of Augsburg, 7-2 in the championship bout.

125 pounds: Junior Scott Padrnos (Brainerd, Minn.) currently has an 8-10 record. Five of those wins resulted via pin.

133 pounds: Junior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) has posted a 20-7 record, including wins in eight of his last 10 matches. Henle was ranked No. 6 at 133 pounds in the Dec. 8 rankings, before dropping to No. 8 for two consecutive sets of rankings. He won the gold bracket at the Augsburg Open Nov. 20.

141 pounds: In his first season as a Johnnie, Sandy boasts an 18-5 record and has won seven of his last eight matches. Of the seven victories, Sandy has recorded four pins and two technical falls. He has been ranked three times this season: No.8 (Dec.  8), No. 6 (Dec. 22) and No. 5 (Jan. 4).

149 pounds: The two-time defending national champion at 141 pounds, senior Minga Batsukh (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia/St. Benedict’s Prep, N.J.) moved up one spot to No. 3 at 149 pounds after defeating then-No. 3 Tony Valek from Augsburg Jan. 28, which improved his record to 19-1. Batsukh’s only loss this season was to No. 2 Blaine Woszczak of Ithaca (N.Y.). He has been ranked in either the third or fourth spot in every NWCA Division III poll released this season. Batsukh was named Wrestler of the Week on Feb. 10 for his performance at this year’s North Country open, where he won his weight class with four technical falls and a major decision. He collected a total of 50 takedowns in his five matches, including a school-record in his 35-19 win in the opening round. The 17 takedowns broke the old record of 15. He has won each of his last 11 matches, only two by straight decision (one pin, five technical falls, and three major decisions). Batsukh aims to become the eighth Johnnie in school history to make four national tournament appearances.

157 pounds: Senior Drew Larson (Willmar, Minn./Willmar) has compiled a 10-7 record this season and has won five of his last six matches. Larson finished fifth in the 149-pound bracket at last year’s regional.

165 pounds: Senior Matt Baarson (Brooklyn Park, Minn./Champlin Park) boasts SJU’s best record with a mark of 20-3 this season. He is currently ranked No. 1 nationally. Of his three losses, one came to third-ranked Nick LeClere of Coe (Iowa), whom he defeated later in the year. Another went to Steve Monk from Division I North Dakota State. Baarson is trying to make his third consecutive national tournament appearance this weekend.

174 pounds: Junior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) has tallied an impressive 22-6 record and is currently ranked fourth in Division III and has been ranked in five of the seven polls this year. He has won nine of his last 11 matches.

184 pounds: Baxter has posted a 19-5 record this season. Baxter is ranked seventh, but has defeated sixth-ranked Brad Baus of Augsburg since the last rankings were released. Baxter is a two-time national tournament entrant and a 2009 All-American (seventh overall).

197 pounds: Willaert is 17-9 this season. Up until the most recent rankings, Willaert had been bouncing between the No. 9 and No. 10 spot. Last year, he bumped up to 285 pounds for the regional tournament and placed sixth.

285 pounds: Junior John Linn (Foley, Minn./Foley) is 6-12 this season. This will be his first regional tournament.

JOHNNIES AT THE NATIONAL TOURNAMENT: SJU has qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships 20 of the last 21 seasons. The most was six, set in 1983 (NAIA) and 1998 (NCAA), head coach Brandon Novak’s sophomore season. The top two wrestlers in each weight class, as well as nine wild-card selections (29 total), advance to the NCAA Division III Championships held Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, in La Crosse, Wis. Two other at-large/alternate wrestlers may also be invited to La Crosse depending on weight-class/bracket sizes at nationals.

LAST YEAR’S REGIONAL: Saint John’s finished fourth out of 15 teams at last year’s Great Lakes Regional. Augsburg won the meet with a total of 224 points, followed by Concordia-Moorhead (142), Elmhurst (Ill., 133.5) and SJU (126). Batsukh, the defending national champion at 141 pounds, earned an automatic berth thanks to a win in the true-second match. Mogi Baatar ’10 and Baarson earned at-large bids. For Baatar, the bid was his fourth consecutive, while the berth was the second straight for Baarson. Hagen was selected as an alternate qualifier.

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