MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Saint John’s earned five national entrants with a second-place finish out of 15 teams at the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional hosted by Augsburg on Saturday, Feb. 25, in Minneapolis.
Senior Dustin Baxter (27-2 record; Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) became the ninth Johnnie in school history to earn four national tournament appearances with a third-place finish at 197 pounds. Seniors Chad Henle (21-9 record; Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) and Matt Pfarr (21-7 record; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) earned their second consecutive trip to nationals, while juniors Mitch Hagen (22-6 record; Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) and Chris Stevermer (25-10 record; Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) will make their first NCAA-Championship debuts in two weeks.
The 2012 NCAA Division III Championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis.
Augsburg won its ninth consecutive NCAA regional with a total of 172.5 points, followed by SJU (110.5) and Elmhurst of Illinois (108.5). The Johnnies have now qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships 22 of the last 23 seasons.
Henle won his first Great Lakes Region title with a perfect 4-0 record at 133 pounds. He pinned his first opponent of the day before tallying a pair of near-major decisions, 10-3 and 8-1, to advance to the title match. Henle avenged an earlier loss (6-4 on Jan. 28) to Concordia-Moorhead’s Daron Hohbein, ranked fifth nationally, with a 5-3 win in the championship match.
Pfarr followed Henle’s lead and posted a 4-0 record of his own to claim the regional title at 174 pounds. He earned a technical fall in his first match before claiming three straight wins against familiar opponents. Pfarr posted a major decision over Concordia-Moorhead’s Sebastian Gardner and a 9-5 victory over Augsburg’s Josh Kohler in the semifinals. Ahead 6-5 in the third period against St. Olaf’s James Roach, Pfarr turned a reversal into back points for a 10-5 win and the title.
Both Hagen and Stevermer punched their tickets to La Crosse with wins in the semifinals, but fell in the championship round. Stevermer tallied three wins, including two major decisions, to reach the 157-pound finals. He knocked off second-seeded Joby Bodi of North Central (Ill.) with a 14-3 drubbing in the semis before falling to top-ranked Orlando Ponce of Augsburg by a 12-3 major decision in the championship bout. Hagen, meanwhile, put together a string of three bonus-point wins at 184 pounds before losing to third-ranked Josef Rau of Elmhurst (Ill.), 9-0.
Baxter won his first match via pin and missed a major decision by one point (10-3) in the quarterfinals. He lost the semifinal bout to Darren Faber of Wheaton (Ill.), a JUCO transfer and NJCAA All-American, 5-3 in double overtime. The loss is the first for Baxter to a Division III wrestler this season. Baxter bounced back with a pin and a 5-3 win over Concordia-Moorhead’s Nathan Schmitz to claim third and earn his fourth trip to nationals.
Sophomore Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.) claimed sixth place with a 3-3 record on the day to end the year 23-11. He tallied a pin to start the tournament before falling to Alberto Quiros of Augustana (Ill.), the eventual second-place finisher, in the quarterfinals. Arne rattled off two more wins but dropped a 6-0 decision in the consolation semifinals. He then lost the fifth-place match by a 12-6 decision to Roberto Frias of Lakeland (Wis.).
Junior Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn./Totino-Grace), the second seed at 165 pounds, won his first match via pin but his high ankle sprain got the most of him in two consecutive losses. The coaching staff had hoped that Schuler, who was in a walking boot until late this week, would receive a first-round bye as the second seed. He would then need only two wins to secure a trip to nationals. One of the first-round byes, however, was awarded to the seventh seed, Augsburg’s Tom Teigen, who defeated Schuler in the quarterfinal match. Schuler ended the season with a 27-8 record.
Sophomore John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) won his first match at heavyweight with a technical fall, but fell to the eventual second-place finish, Tom Bouressa of Concordia-Moorhead, by a 9-0 major decision in the quarterfinals. Scepaniak bounced back with a pin in his first consolation match before ending the day with a 17-10 loss in the consolation quarterfinals. He ended the year with a 15-18 record.
Junior Jay Woiwor (Becker, Minn.) received an opening-round bye at 141 pounds and lost his first match of the day to Will Keeter of Augsburg, ranked fifth nationally and the eventual regional champion. Woiwor tallied a 23-15 major decision win over Concordia-Moorhead’s Michael Holman before exiting the tournament via pin.
Freshman Brian Waldron (Lake Zurich, Ill./Carmel Catholic) lost both matches in his regional debut. He fell by major decision in the first match before ending the day with an 8-2 loss to Sean Ambrocio of Concordia (Wis.), the eventual fourth-place finisher and one of the two at-large selections to nationals.