SJU Grapplers Ranked Seventh, Trio in Top 10 Nationally

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — Saint John’s University wrestling slipped one spot to No. 7 in the Brute-Adidas National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division lll poll released Tuesday, Jan. 3.

D3wrestle.com Rankings | NWCA Team Rankings | NWCA Individual Rankings

Other members of the NCAA Great Lakes Region listed in the rankings include Augsburg (No. 2, up five spots from No. 7), Elmhurst of Illinois (No. 9, up one from No. 10), Concordia-Moorhead (No. 13) and North Central of Illinois (No. 29).

Senior Dustin Baxter (Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) stayed at No. 2 at 197 pounds in the NWCA rankings and No. 3 on D3wrestle.com’s 197-pound list. Baxter, the top-seed, won the 197-pound bracket at the two-day Citrus Invitational Dec. 29-30 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He cruised through his first three matches via 17-2 technical fall, first-period pin (1:13) and a medical default. Baxter tallied a close 3-2 decision over Alex Coolidge of Luther (Iowa) in the semifinals before earning a 3-1 victory over Carl Broghammer of Upper Iowa, the top-ranked wrestler in Division II, in the championship match. Baxter is now 13-0 on the season.

Junior Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) surprisingly fell out of D3wrestle.com’s top 10 at 184, but cracked the NWCA rankings at No. 6, after earning the 184-pound title at the Citrus Invitational. He followed his opening-round bye with a pin and a 9-5 win over Ryan Swansen of Division II Colorado School of Mines. He started Friday with an eye-opening 20-5 technical fall against the top seed, Royal Brettrager, of Liberty (Va.), a Division I national qualifier from a year ago. Hagen defeated Upper Iowa’s Mitchell Schultz, the top-ranked wrestler in Division II, 7-2 in the championship bout. He is now 10-2 on the year.

Senior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) fell out of the NWCA rankings but is ranked No. 10 according to D3wrestle.com at 133 pounds. He claimed fifth at the Citrus Invite with a 4-2 record. Henle won his first three matches by straight decision before falling in the semifinals. Like Pfarr at 184, He lost a one-point decision on path to the third-place match.

Senior Matt Pfarr (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) and junior Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn./Totino-Grace) fell out of the national top 10. Pfarr, on his way back down to 174 pounds, mirrored Hagen to the 184-pound semifinals and finished fifth. He won his first two matches before falling to Schultz in the semis. Pfarr lost to Shiheem Bryant of North Carolina-Pembroke, 6-5, and earned fifth due to a medical default. Brettrager eventually claimed third with a 6-3 victory over Bryant.

Schuler, meanwhile, was not seeded in the 165-pound weight bracket despite being ranked seventh and eighth in the D3wrestle.com and NWCA rankings, respectively. He fell to top-seeded Orlando Ponce (Augsburg) 13-7 in his first match before tallying a 15-0 technical fall in the first consolation match. Schuler ended Friday with a 7-5 loss to Noel Sweeney of Augsburg. He is now 12-5 on the season.

Hagen, Schuler, junior Chris Stevermer (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) and sophomore Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.) were listed as contenders, just outside of the Top 10, in the D3wrestle.com rankings.

Arne claimed second at 149 pounds with a 4-1 mark. He gallantly progressed through the bracket despite his lack of seeding before falling to top-ranked Tony Valek of Augsburg in the championship match. Stevermer took seventh at 157 pounds with a 4-2 record. Both losses were by three points or less to Division II opponents.

The Johnnies travel to the Illinois state capital for the 2012 NWCA/Cliff Keen Division III National Duals next Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 7-8. The elite two-day tournament will be held at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield. SJU is scheduled to begin the tournament against No. 24 Mount Union (Ohio) at 9 a.m., followed by No. 4 Wisconsin-La Crosse/No. 25 Centenary (N.J.) at 1 p.m.

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