SJU Hosts Annual North Country Open Saturday

Saint John’s wrestling hosts its annual North Country Open at 9 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 1, at Sexton Arena in Collegeville.

Saint John's JohnniesSJU vs. AUGSBURG MOVED TO FEB. 16: SJU’s dual against Augsburg, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 26, was postponed and rescheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, at Sexton Arena in Collegeville.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s (7-8 dual record) returns to the mat after going 1-2 at the National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA)/Cliff Keen Division III National Duals on Jan. 11 in Des Moines, Iowa. Both losses were to top-five programs. SJU started the day with a 27-12 loss to No. 5 Wilkes (Pa.) and defeated Centenary (N.J.) 27-23 before ending the day, and the dual tournament, with a 21-19 loss to No. 3 Wabash (Ind.).

Wilkes jumped out to an 8-0 lead before sophomore Ben Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) put SJU on the scoreboard with a 6-5 decision at 141 pounds. With the match tied at 4-4, Henle picked up a point for riding time and another for stalling in the third period. The Colonels picked up their second technical fall of the dual at 149 pounds before senior Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.) turned heads with a 4-3 upset of Kris Krawchuck, last year’s national runner-up and the second-ranked wrestler at 157. Down 2-0 entering the third period, Arne tallied a takedown and a two-point near-fall to earn the victory. A 10-7 lead escaped senior Brandon Seppelt (Foley, Minn.) late in an 11-10 loss at 165 pounds and the skid continued for the Johnnies until senior John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) posted a pin at the 3:27 mark in a match between two national qualifiers from last season.

Sophomore John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton), on the cusp of earning a technical fall, started the dual against unranked Centenary with a win via injury default at 125 pounds. The Cyclones gained a 7-6 lead before junior Joe Hessing (Loretto, Minn./Delano) and Arne recorded back-to-back pins to give the Johnnies an 18-7 lead. CC answered with a major decision and two pins of their own to take a 23-18 lead with two matches left. Junior Ryan Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.) earned a solid 4-0 win at 197 pounds to cut the Johnnies’ deficit to two before sophomore Matt Kadrlik (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley) brought the win home with a pin at heavyweight.

SJU built a 10-3 lead over Wabash, but the third-ranked Little Giants, sparked by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on SJU following Arne’s match at 157 pounds, won four straight matches to build a 21-10 lead. Arne fell in his match, 5-2, to third-ranked Reece Lefever. When SJU head coach Brandon Novak questioned as to why Arne was not awarded back points, the referee issued the penalty and awarded Wabash an additional team point. Michaelis earned a decision at 197 pounds and Scepaniak closed the dual with another pin.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: As a team, SJU moved up one spot to No. 21 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) rankings released Jan. 28. Individually, Arne re-joined the ranks at No. 10 (157) on the NWCA list. He was ranked nationally, as high as No. 7 (Nov. 14), in the first three polls this season. Henle fell out of the NWCA rankings, from No. 9, at 141 pounds, but is still ranked ninth by D3wrestle.com, which lists Arne, Hessing and Michaelis as “Contenders,” just outside of the top 10. Wells was listed as honorable mention at 125 pounds.

WHO WILL BE HERE: In addition to 31 SJU wrestlers, Saturday’s tournament (180 strong) is scheduled to include competitors from Augsburg, Concordia-Moorhead, Dickinson State (N.D.), Iowa Lakes C.C., Minnesota, MSU-Mankato, North Dakota State, Pacific (Ore.), Ridgewater, St. Cloud State and Southwest Minnesota State.

LAST YEAR’S TOURNAMENT: Saint John’s placed six wrestlers in the top six of the 215-participant North Country Open last Feb. 2 (2013) in Collegeville. Mitch Hagen ’13 went 3-0 with a pair of first-period pins and a decision in the semifinals at 184 pounds before falling to Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr 8-3 in the championship match. Pfarr is the younger brother of two-time SJU All-American Matt Pfarr ’12. Sophomore Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) followed a similar path to the finals at 174 pounds with a pair of pins and two more decisions before falling to Dickinson State’s (N.D.) Cameron Schrempp, 4-2 in overtime. Nick Schuler ’13 improved to 13-1 at 165 pounds with three wins before leaving the tournament in sixth place. Sophomore Simon Liedtke (Excelsior, Minn./Minnetonka) finished fifth at 184 pounds with a 3-2 record. Charlie Kirscht ’13 went 3-1 at 141 before injury defaulting his final two matches to take sixth and senior Alex Peck (Edina, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s) went 3-2 before injury defaulting in the fifth-place match.