Five Saint John’s wrestlers travel to La Crosse, Wis., for the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships this Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, at the La Crosse Center. Friday’s competition is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., followed by a second session at 6 p.m. Saturday begins with a 10 a.m. session and ends with the championship matches at 7 p.m.
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A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s finished second out of 15 teams at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Feb. 25 in Minneapolis. SJU has now qualified two or more wrestlers to the national tournament in 22 of the last 23 seasons.
- 133 pounds – Senior Chad Henle (21-9 record; Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer)
- 157 pounds – Junior Chris Stevermer (25-10 record; Savage, Minn./Prior Lake)
- 174 pounds – Senior Matt Pfarr (21-7 record; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson)
- 184 pounds – Mitch Hagen (22-6 record; Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg)
- 197 pounds – Dustin Baxter (27-2 record; Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley)
Henle won his first Great Lakes Region title with a perfect 4-0 record at 133 pounds Feb. 25. He earned All-America status with a seventh-place finish at last year’s national tournament. The 133-pound bracket includes five returning All-Americans in the bracket, counting Henle, and four returning qualifiers. Four of the five returning All-Americans will face each other in the first round, including the eighth-seeded Henle against the second seed, Corey Brown (36-1 record) from Thiel (Pa.). Brown is a three-time All-American looking for his fourth award after finishing sixth once and eighth twice. Henle defeated Brown 6-3 to claim seventh at last year.
Stevermer tallied three wins, including two major decisions, to reach the 157-pound finals at regionals. 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. The 157-pound bracket has four returning All-Americans and three returning qualifiers. Stevermer begins the tournament with a match against fifth-seeded Dale Handley (28-4 record) of Coe (Iowa).
Pfarr earned a technical fall in his first match before claiming three straight wins to post a 4-0 record and claim the regional title at 174 pounds. Pfarr earned All-America honors with a seventh-place finish at last year’s national tournament. The 174-pound bracket boasts four returning All-Americans, including Pfarr, and four returning qualifiers. Pfarr, seeded eighth, takes on Dan Schiferl (26-11 record) of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the first round and could face top-seeded Jules Doliscar (33-2 record) of Ithaca (N.Y.) in the quarterfinals. Pfarr’s lone Division III loss was to Trevor Tyler (32-9 record) of Olivet (Mich.), the seventh seed.
Hagen tallied three straight bonus-point wins before falling to the third-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds (Elmhurst’s Josef Rau) at the NCAA regional. Rau is seeded second, while Hagen is eighth. Hagen starts the tourney against Ryan Pieper (34-13 record) of Trine (Ind.) and could face top-seeded Mike Denver (30-0 record) from the College of New Jersey in the quarterfinals. The 184-pound bracket includes five returning All-Americans and five returning qualifiers.
Baxter became the ninth Johnnie wrestler in school history to earn four national tournament appearances with a third-place finish at regionals. He received All-America honors for the second time at 184 pounds by claiming third at last year’s nationals. The 197-pound bracket includes three other returning All-Americans and three returning qualifiers. Baxter, the No. 3 seed, faces Sam Johnson (16-10 record) of Dubuque (Iowa) in the opening round and could meet a familiar face, sixth-seeded Nathan Schmitz (27-9) of Concordia-Moorhead, in the quarterfinals.