Six Johnnie Wrestlers Begin National Tournament Friday

Six Saint John’s wrestlers are set to compete at the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships Friday-Saturday, March 15-16, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Both days of competition are scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

Brackets ( | Weight Class Previews at | Championships Website

Saint John's JohnniesA LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s finished third out of 12 teams and qualified six wrestlers to the NCAA Division III Championships on March 2 at the NCAA West Regional in Minneapolis. A pair of Johnnies, senior Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, Minn./Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) and junior Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.), earned individual titles. Senior Chris Stevermer (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake) finished third at 149 pounds to, like Hagen, earn his second consecutive trip to nationals, while sophomore Ryan Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.) and juniors John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) and Nick Schuler (Roseville, Minn.) earned their first national-tournament appearances.

The fourth-ranked wrestler in Division III at 184 pounds, Hagen went 3-0 with a pair of pins, including a title-clinching fall over Caleb Malychewski of Pacific (Ore.). Arne earned SJU’s other crown and his first trip to nationals with the most impressive performance of the day. Arne sandwiched a pair of major decisions with two technical falls, ending the day with a 17-1 win over Concordia-Moorhead’s Kevin Fynboh at 157 pounds.

Schuler started the day with back-to-back decisions before falling to top-ranked Nazar Kulchytskyy (Wisconsin-Oshkosh) by technical fall, 20-5, in the 165-pound championship bout. He is now 16-2 on the season, with both losses coming by technical fall to Kulchytskyy, last year’s national champion at 157 pounds.

Five wrestlers competed in the third-place matches of their respective weights. Stevermer posted a pair of pins before falling to Concordia-Moorhead’s Jacob Long, 3-2 in the 149-pound semifinal. He battled back with a 5-3 win over St. Olaf’s Carl Elmer and punched his ticket to nationals with a convincing 18-2 technical fall of Augsburg’s Rashad Kennedy.

Michaelis won his first match at 197 pounds but allowed a late takedown to the Cobbers’ Nathan Schmitz in a 3-1 semifinal loss. He wrapped up third place with two more decisions to improve to 10-4 on the season.

Scepaniak became the first SJU heavyweight to reach the national tournament since 1997 (Matt Wentland) with a 3-1 record. He dropped a hard-fought 8-4 decision to top-ranked Chad Johnson of Augsburg in the semifinal, but earned a trip to nationals with an overtime win over St. Olaf’s Zack Gibson, his second victory over the Ole on the day.

Sophomore Dalton Sowers (Delano, Minn.) bounced back from a loss in his first match at 133 pounds to reach the third-place match, only to fall to the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Austin Binish via pin. Sowers ended the year with an 8-6 record.

Freshman Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) registered two pins to start the tourney but fell to St. Olaf’s James Roach, 7-4 in the 174-pound semifinal. He earned a 10-5 decision over the Cobbers’ Sebastian Gardner but lost the third-place match to Augsburg’s Josh Kohler, 11-6. Willaert ended his freshman campaign with a 20-5 record.

Freshman John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton) went 2-2 to claim fifth place at 125 pounds. He won his first match by a pin in 49 seconds, before falling by decision to fifth-ranked Sean Ambrocio of Concordia (Wis.) and St. Olaf’s Wesley Azariah. Wells tallied a 12-1 major decision to claim fifth and end the season with a 10-7 record.

Sophomore Evan Guffey (Wyandotte, Mich./Roosevelt) lost his first match of the day with a high-scoring 14-12 decision to Marcus McCauley of Lakeland (Wis.), and fell in the consolation bracket by a 6-3 score to Ryan Baxter of Pacific).

TRACK RECORD: SJU has now qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships 23 of the last 24 seasons.

149 – Stevermer (17-6) begins his second consecutive appearance at nationals with one of the two pigtail matches at 149 against Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Ben Strobel. Strobel defeated Stevermer by a 7-3 score earlier this season (Dec. 1) when both were wrestling at 157 pounds. With a win, Stevermer will face second-seeded Michael Polizzi of Stevens Institue of Technology (N.J.), who defeated the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds last weekend in the NCAA East Regional. With a loss, Stevermer will face the loser of top-ranked (NWCA/ Kodie Silvestri of Wartburg (Iowa) and Jake Strausbaugh of Wabash (Ind.).

157 – Arne (9-4) opens the tournament against fifth-ranked ( Troy Sterling of Cortland State (N.Y.). With a win, Arne will likely face Wilkes’ (Pa.) Kris Krawchuk, who is ranked as high as third nationally (, in the quarterfinals.

165 – Like Stevermer, Schuler (16-2) begins the tourney with a pigtail match against Collin Crowell of Roger Williams (R.I.). A win advances him to a quarterfinal match against unseeded Joseph Kubica of Dubuque (Iowa). A victory in the quarterfinals could match Schuler against Oshkosh’s Kulchytskyy, who has handed him his only two losses this season, in the semifinals.

184 – Hagen (16-4), who is ranked as high as third ( nationally, makes second consecutive national-tournament appearance as the No. 4 seed and faces Julian Meaney of Elizabethtown (Pa.). If he wins his first two matches, Hagen will most likely face top-ranked Josef Rau of Elmhurst (Ill.) in the semifinals. Hagen fell to Rau by a 9-0 major decision at last year’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional en route to a third-place finish at nationals.

197 – Michaelis (10-4) makes his debut on the national stage against third-ranked Aaron Karns of Delaware Valley (Pa.). He would then wrestle either Wartburg’s Punahele Soriano Hunter’s (N.Y.) Musa De’Reese.

285 – Scepaniak (12-14) is scheduled to compete in the third of SJU’s three pigtail matches against Wartburg’s Ryan Fank. A win sends him to a match against unseeded Jeremy Rieth of Elizabethtown, while a loss earns him a match against the loser between top-ranked Chad Johnson of Augsburg and Nick Pearch of Luther (Iowa) in wrestlebacks.

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