LA CROSSE, Wis. – Saint John’s enters Saturday’s final day of the 2011 NCAA Division III Championships in fifth place, three points away from third, with five wrestlers still alive and guaranteed All-America status (top eight). The five NCAA All-Americans is a school record, breaking the old record of four set in 1997.
Wartburg (Iowa) currently leads with 63.5 points, followed by Augsburg (51.5), Wisconsin-La Crosse (43), Coe (Iowa; 41.5), Saint John’s (40) and Ithaca (N.Y.; 37).
Session III begins at 10 a.m., followed by the finals at 6 p.m. at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis.
Six of the Johnnies’ seven wrestlers won their first match of the day. Senior Minga Batsukh (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia/St. Benedict’s Prep, N.J.) cruised through his first two matches at 149, earning a 25-7 technical fall and a 17-6 major decision. The two-time defending national champion (141 lbs.) then defeated James Locke of Coe (Iowa) 11-4 to set up a rematch with Ithaca’s (N.Y.) Blaine Woszczak in the semifinal. Woszczak recorded Batsukh’s lone defeat of the season, a 7-5 overtime decision at the National Duals held in early January.
Top-ranked senior Matt Baarson (Brooklyn Park, Minn./Champlin Park) snuck by Adam Weber of Wartburg 5-4 in his first match of the day before pinning Matt Curley of Heidelberg (Ohio) to reach the semifinals, where he will face Coe’s Nick LeClere, ranked third nationally. Baarson lost to LeClere 9-3 before Christmas in Las Vegas before defeating him 4-3 at the National Duals.
Junior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) posted a 10-2 major decision in his first match before falling to Michael Reilly of King’s (Pa.), the fourth-ranked wrestler at 184, 3-1. Pfarr clinched All-America status with a 5-3 overtime victory over the College of New Jersey’s Brian Broderick. He will face top-seeded Kyle Kwiat of Ohio Northern in the consolation bracket Saturday.
Junior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) upset eighth-seeded Thomas Mirocha of Wartburg (Iowa) with a 10-8 overtime decision in his first match of the day. He then dropped a 7-0 decision to top-seeded and undefeated William Livingston of Centenary (N.J.). Henle defeated Jake Frederickson of Wisconsin-Whitewater 9-4 to earn All-America honors and set up a showdown with Adam Sheley of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the fifth seed, in the consolation bracket Saturday.
Junior Dustin Baxter (Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) tallied an 8-3 win in his first match before falling to top-seeded and defending national champion Phil Moenkedick of Concordia-Moorhead. He defeated Sam Engelland of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 5-2 in his first consolation match and will face Greg Rhoads of Wabash (Ind.) Saturday.
Senior Tony Willaert (North Mankato, Minn./Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial) avenged an early-season 7-6 loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Adam Latella with an eye-opening 12-3 major decision over the seventh seed in the first round. Willaert dropped to the consolation via pin from second-ranked Jared Massey of Augsburg and was eliminated with an 11-9 loss to Dubuque’s (Iowa) Sam Johnson.
Senior Chris Sandy (Spirit Lake, Iowa) lost his first match of the tournament, 4-2 to eighth-seeded David Alsieux of Centenary (N.J.), ranked seventh nationally. He was eliminated with a 6-3 loss to Luther’s (Iowa) Kevin Bokoski in his first consolation match.
Sandy was named the Division III recipient of NCAA’s Elite 88 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 88 championships.