SJU’s Baxter and Pfarr Advance to NCAA Semifinals

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Saint John’s University seniors Dustin Baxter (197 lbs.; Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) and Matt Pfarr (174 lbs.; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) clinched All-America honors (top eight) with a pair of wins in the first day of the 2012 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships on Friday, March 9, in La Crosse, Wis. The semifinal round begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and ends with the championship matches at 7 p.m. (both rounds start at 125 pounds).

The Johnnies enter Saturday in 11th place out of 62 teams with a total of 19 points. Top-ranked Wartburg (Iowa) leads with 70 points, followed by Wisconsin-La Crosse (48), Augsburg (47) and Coe of Iowa (43).

Baxter (29-2 record) defeated Dubuque’s (Iowa) Sam Johnson by a 3-1 decision and advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling 5-4 win over Concordia-Moorhead’s Nathan Schmitz in the fourth overtime. The two ended regulation tied at 3-3. Neither wrestler tallied a point in the first overtime and both escaped in the 30-second frames to make it 4-4. Entering the second overtime in the top-bottom position, Schmitz had a five-second advantage after both rode. No points were scored in the one-minute neutral position, so Schmitz’s five seconds of riding time carried over to the fourth overtime. Baxter chose top first and rode Schmitz for 11 seconds to post a six-second advantage. He, therefore, had six seconds to get away from Schmitz, which he did in four seconds to earn the win and advance to a semifinal match against second-seeded Jared Myhrberg of Cortland State (N.Y.). Myhrberg pinned both of his opponents Friday and is 31-0 on the year.

Pfarr (23-7 record) advanced to the quarterfinals with a 9-4 win over Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Dan Schiferl. He then upset top-seeded Jules Doliscar of Ithaca (N.Y.) with a late takedown and riding time to post a 9-6 win. The loss was Doliscar’s first to a Division III opponent this season (35-3 record). Pfarr will face Wartburg’s Bradley Banks in the semis, whom he defeated by a 4-3 decision at last year’s Vegas Duals.

Both Baxter and Pfarr are guaranteed at least sixth place.

Junior Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) won his opening-round match at 184 pounds with a 5-1 decision over Ryan Pieper of Trine (Ind.) but fell to the top-seed, undefeated Mike Denver of the College of New Jersey, by a 13-2 major decision. He then lost to the No. 3 seed, Wartburg’s Dylan Azinger, 8-2 in wrestlebacks. Hagen ends the year with a 23-8 record.

Senior Chad Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) lost his first match at 133 pounds by major decision (13-4) to the No. 2 seed, Corey Brown of Thiel (Pa.). He ended the tournament with a 5-3 loss to Wartburg’s Tommy Mirocha in his first consolation match. Henle defeated Mirocha 10-8 in overtime in the opening round of last year’s national tournament. He ends his career with a 21-11 record on the season.

Junior Chris Stevermer (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) lost both of his matches at 157 pounds by a 12-5 score to end the season with a 25-12 record. He fell to fifth-seeded Dale Handley of Coe (Iowa) in the first round and to Isaac Dukes of Case Western Reserve (Ohio), a two-time All-American and the 2010 national champion, in the first match of wrestlebacks.

Brackets/Results at

Would you like to receive the latest Minnesota wrestling news in your inbox?