COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Saint John’s University head wrestling coach Brandon Novak welcomed 18 freshmen to the Johnnies’ squad when the team started practice Oct. 22.
Sophomore Dalton Sowers (Long Lake, Minn./Delano) net a 93-24 career record in high school, despite missing his entire senior season at Delano. He posted a perfect 12-0 record as a freshman during the fall portion of the 2010-11 season and missed the entire 2011-12 season.
Freshman Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) also joins the Johnnies this year after taking a season off in 2011-12. A two-time state champion, he posted an impressive 142-43 record in high school and is expected to contend for, if not secure, the team’s vacancy at 174 pounds.
This year’s freshman class is particularly deep at 125 pounds, a group that includes four wrestlers that tallied more than 85 wins and finished at least fourth in their respective state tournaments in high school. Freshman John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton) posted a 169-33 career record and won the Wisconsin Division I state title as a sophomore. He also earned second- and sixth-place finishes as a senior and junior, respectively. Jackie Mendez (Lubbock, Texas) won the Texas Region 1 state championship at Lubbock High School and finished with an 86-12 career record. Ben Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer), the younger brother of Chad Henle ’12, posted a 104-34 career record and claimed fourth at last winter’s Minnesota Class AA tournament. Andy Poster (Royalton, Minn.), meanwhile, finished sixth at the Class A tournament and ended his career with a 122-41 record.
The Johnnies have a pair of freshman 133 pounders that will compete for the open spot left by Chad Henle, who graduated last spring. Tyler Isaacson (Forest Lake, Minn.) comes in with a 150-40 career record, as well as third- and fourth-place finishes at the Class AAA tournament. Tyler Jenson (Foley, Minn.) finished fourth at the Class AA tournament last spring and finished his career with 98 victories.
Rusty Grisim (Lake City, Minn.) is expected to compete for time at 157 pounds and leads all incoming freshmen with 170 career wins at the high school level and finished fourth at the Class A tournament as a senior.
Matt Kadrlik (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley) is expected to compete with juniors Paul Plombon (Rice, Minn./Sartell-St. Stephen) and John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) for mat time at heavyweight. He finished is high school career with a 105-30 record and a fifth-place finish at the Class AA tournament last spring.
Saint John’s begins its 2012-13 season Nov. 16 with a dual against Northwestern (Iowa) at the Old Gym in Collegeville. The Johnnies host three other duals this season: St. Olaf (Dec. 6), St. Cloud State (Dec. 12) and Concordia-Moorhead (Feb. 16); as well as the annual North Country Open Feb. 2. The inaugural NCAA West Regional is scheduled for March 3 at Augsburg in Minneapolis.
2012-13 SJU Wrestling Freshmen
- Aaron Baker (197 lbs.; Lakeville, Minn./North): 81-50 career record
- Michael Carlin (157 lbs.; Milwaukee, Wis./Whitefish Bay)
- Dylan Gertken (157 lbs.; Paynesville, Minn./Rocori)
- Rusty Grisim (157 lbs.; Lake City, Minn.): 170-30 career record, Class A fourth place (senior)
- Ben Henle (125 lbs.; Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer): 104-34 career record, Class AA fourth place
- Tyler Isaacson (133 lbs.; Forest Lake, Minn.): 150-40 career record, Class AAA third (senior) and fourth place (junior)
- Tyler Jenson (133 lbs.; Foley, Minn.): Class AA fourth place (senior)
- Matt Kadrlik (285 lbs.; Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley): 105-30 career record, Class AA fifth place (senior)
- Ben Kollaja (125 lbs.; Stillwater, Minn.): 12-2 career record
- Simon Liedtke (165 lbs.; Excelsior, Minn./Minnetonka)
- Jackie Mendez (125 lbs.; Lubbock, Texas): 86-12 career record, Texas Division 1 state champion as a senior
- Mike Pleski (133 lbs.; Stacy, Minn./Forest Lake)
- Andy Poster (125 lbs.; Royalton, Minn.): 122-51 career record, Class A sixth place (senior)
- Alex Rod (125 lbs.; Vadnais Heights, Minn./White Bear Lake)
- Zach Schreier (125 lbs.; Maplewood, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall): 55-39 career record
- Kyle Spengler (174 lbs.; Westminster, Colo./Holy Family): Colorado Class 5A fifth place (senior)
- John Wells (125 lbs.; Janesville, Wis./Milton): 169-33 career record, Wisconsin Division 1 state champion as a sophomore, second (senior) and sixth (junior)
- Josh Willaert (174 lbs.; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson): 142-43 career record, two-time Class A state champion