Johnnies Face Division II Power St. Cloud State Thursday

The nationally-ranked Saint John’s wrestling team travels to face No. 4 (Division II) St. Cloud State for a 7 p.m. dual Thursday, Dec. 5, at Halenbeck Hall in St. Cloud.

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MILITARY APPRECIATION NIGHT: Thursday’s dual has been designated as Military and Veterans Appreciation Night at SCSU’s Halenbeck Hall. All active military and veterans, and a guest, will receive free admission to the event. Both teams will wear camouflaged singlets in honor of the event.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s opened its 2013-14 wrestling season by placing seven in the top five at the annual Augsburg Open on Nov. 23 in Minneapolis. Six of the seven recorded 3-1 records on the day.

Senior Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.), the seventh-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds and a returning national entrant, finished second. He started the tournament with a pin and technical fall before defeating Zak Benitz of Division II Upper Iowa by a 6-3 decision in the semifinals. Arne fell to Augsburg’s Will Keeter, who is ranked second nationally at 149 pounds, by a 6-3 score in the title bout.

Sophomore Ben Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) stole the show for SJU, however, with two wins over nationally-ranked opponents on the day. He started the tourney with an upset of the top-ranked wrestler in NCAA Division III, Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Nathaniel Behnke, by an 8-7 score at 141 pounds. He tallied a 9-3 decision over Upper Iowa’s Duane Richardson before posting a lopsided 18-8 major decision over sixth-ranked Tom Kuehn of Augsburg in the semifinals. Henle, who posted a 12-7 record as a freshman for SJU last season, fell to Upper Iowa’s Jordan Roths by a 7-4 decision in the championship match.

Senior Joe Hessing (Loretto, Minn./Delano) went 3-1 at 149 pounds, his first matches since the 2011-12 season, to take third. He tallied two pins on the day, including a fall in the third-place match.

Sophomore Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) bumped up a weight class and claimed fifth at 197 pounds. He started the day with a technical fall but lost his quarterfinal match by fall to Upper Iowa’s Carl Broghammer, who led all of Division II with 20 pins last season. Willaert bounced back with a pin and an 8-6 decision over Eau Claire’s Luke Ortscheid to take fifth.

Freshman Branden Schorr (Mantorville, Minn./Kasson-Mantorville) opened his collegiate career with an impressive 3-1 record and a third-place finish at 149 pounds in the silver bracket. His lone loss was a 6-4 decision to Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Evan Caldon. Schorr ended the day with a 45-second pin over Briar Cliff’s (Iowa) Jacob Spadoni.

Sophomore Andy Poster (Royalton, Minn.) took fourth at 141 pounds in the silver bracket. He tallied a pair of close decisions, including an overtime win in the quarterfinals, but fell via pin in the semis and took a medical forfeit in the third-place match.

Senior Aaron Brasket (Independence, Minn./Delano) pinned his first opponent at 174 pounds of the silver bracket but lost in the quarterfinals, 8-1. He retaliated with two decisions to take fifth.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: SJU entered the national top 20, while six Johnnies received recognition in the D3wrestle.com and National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) rankings released Nov. 27. The Johnnies moved up in both rankings after a strong performance to start the season. Henle cracked the top 10 at fifth (NWCA) and sixth (D3wrestle.com) at 141 pounds. Arne dropped one spot from seventh to eighth at 157 pounds according to the NWCA and is now No. 10 in the d3wrestle.com rankings. Four other Johnnies were listed as “Contenders” by D3wrestle.com, just outside the top 10: junior Ryan Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.) at 197 pounds, senior John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) at heavyweight, sophomore John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton) at 125 pounds (2-2 record) and sophomore Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) at 184 pounds (3-1 record). Michaelis dropped from No. 10 by D3wrestle.com (Oct. 24). Fresh off a successful football season, Michaelis and Scepaniak have yet to compete on the mat this year.

A LOOK AT THE HUSKIES: St. Cloud State begins its dual season with a lineup that includes four returning All-Americans from last year: sophomore Gabe Fogarty (165), sophomore Matt Nelson (141), senior Andy Pokorny (133) and sophomore Clint Poster (157). In the 2013-14 Division II preseason polls, Pokorny was ranked second at 133 pounds, Poster third at 157, Nelson fourth at 141 and Fogarty fifth at 165. The Huskies have claimed an individual NCAA title each of the past three seasons: John Sundgren (157) in 2011, Derek Skala (184) in 2012 and Shamus O’Grady (184) in 2013.

SCSU STREAKING: SCSU enters the match vs. SJU riding a 47-dual win streak, one victory away from breaking the NCAA Division II record for consecutive dual-match wins, which was set by Pittsburgh-Johnstown from 1993-96. The Huskies’ impressive streak began with a 38-3 win over Minnesota State Moorhead on Jan. 30, 2011 and since that match, SCSU has posted 47 consecutive wins. Along the way, the Huskies have notched two consecutive 21-0 seasons, three consecutive runner-up finishes at the NCAA Division II championships, three consecutive NCAA Division II Super Region 3 championships and NSIC championships in 2012 and 2013.

LAST YEAR’S MATCHUP: Then-No. 3 (Division II) St. Cloud State won the first six matches in a 33-6 win at then-No. 27 (Division III) Saint John’s last Dec. 12 (2012) in Collegeville. SCSU built a 19-0 lead until the Johnnies ended the skid with a pair of wins at 165 and 174 pounds. Chris Stevermer ’13, who was ranked No. 10 at 157 pounds by D3wrestle.com, just missed a major decision with a 13-6 win at 165. Nick Schuler ’13 improved to 6-0 on the year with a 9-3 win at 174. Sophomore John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton) and Cody Goldschmidt ’13 lost one-point decisions at 125 and 149 pounds, respectively.

SERIES HISTORY: The Johnnies are 6-11 against the Huskies in the last 17 meetings, including a 3-6 record in St. Cloud. SCSU has won each of the last seven meetings, which ended a stretch of five straight victories for SJU.

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