Saint John’s junior Ryan Michaelis (197 lbs.) and sophomore Ben Henle (141 lbs.) compete at the 2014 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, which begin at 10 a.m. Friday, March 14, at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s wrestling earned two national entrants, Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) and Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.), and finished third out of 12 teams at the NCAA West Regional on March 1 in Minneapolis. No. 6 Augsburg won the regional with a total of 148 points, followed by No. 5 Concordia-Moorhead (136.5), No. 21 SJU (92), Wisconsin-Oshkosh (72.5) and Concordia of Wisconsin (58.5).
Michaelis started the day with a pair of comfortable wins, 8-2 and 9-3, before upsetting fifth-ranked Matt Hechsel of Augsburg, 3-2 in the semifinal bout to earn his second consecutive trip to nationals. He won the 197-pound title with a 6-0 shutout over Concordia’s (Wis.) Jake Reuteler to improve to 16-9 on the season.
The top seed at 141 pounds, Henle (19-9 record) received a first-round bye and earned a 12-2 major decision in his quarterfinal match. He clinched a trip to nationals with a 9-4 win over Concordia-Moorhead’s Yonas Gebreab in the semifinals before falling to Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Nathaniel Behnke by a 5-4 score in the championship match.
Senior Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.), the defending regional champion at 157 pounds, cruised through his first two matches with a pin (1:06) and technical fall (18-2), but injured his knee 2:11 into the semifinal match against Concordia-Moorhead’s Kyle LeDuc and was forced to exit the tournament. He ended the season with a 20-5 record.
Sophomore Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) lost his quarterfinal match at 184 pounds and battled back with three wins (via pin, technical fall and decision) in the consolation bracket but ended his season with an 8-2 loss to Pacific’s (Ore.) Caleb Malychewski in the third-place match. Willaert (15-10 record) just missed a trip to nationals with a fourth-place finish at 174 pounds as a freshman last year.
Senior John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) went 2-2 on the day to finish fourth at heavyweight. A national entrant in 2013, Scepaniak (12-14 record) won his quarterfinal match before running into Augsburg’s Chad Johnson, the two-time defending national champion, in the semis. He bounced back with a 15-9 win in wrestlebacks but fell to St. Olaf’s Zack Gibson in the third-place match (13-5).
Sophomore John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Milton) just missed a spot in the third-place match at 125 pounds with a 5-3 loss to Platteville’s Cole Ferguson. He ended the tournament, and his season, with a pin in 6:46 to claim fifth place and post a 12-13 record. Junior Joe Hessing (Loretto, Minn./Delano) collected three bonus-point wins to finish fifth at 149 pounds. He barely missed a trip to the third-place match with a 15-13 overtime loss in the consolation semifinal. Down by a 9-1 score, Hessing came back to tie the match at 13-13, only to give up a takedown and lose in sudden-death overtime. He ended the tournament with a pin of Lakeland’s (Wis.) Jacob Maechtle in 42 seconds. Maechtle sent Hessing (20-12 record) to the consolation bracket via pin in the quarterfinals (4:32). Senior Alex Peck (Edina, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s) went 1-2 at 133 pounds and bowed out of the fifth-place match via medical forfeit. He ended his senior season with a 10-9 record.
HENLE: Henle earned a trip to nationals with a second-place finish at the regional and is 19-9 on the season. He is set to face the eighth seed, seventh-ranked Matt Holmes (20-4 record) of Loras (Iowa), in the first round. Holmes defeated Henle by a 6-4 a month ago (Feb. 9) in Dubuque, Iowa. If Henle wins the rematch, he will likely take on top-ranked Kaleb Loht of Messiah (Pa.). The 141-pound bracket includes four returning qualifiers from a year ago, of which two earned All-America (top eight) honors. Henle’s older brother, Chad ’12, was a two-time national qualifier and an All-American (seventh place) in 2011 at 133 pounds.
MICHAELIS: Michaelis is 16-9 on the season and won the 197-pound title at the NCAA West Regional. He begins his second consecutive national-tournament appearance Friday against Brockport State’s (N.Y.) Paul Glover (21-4 record), who is ranked sixth nationally. His likely second-round opponent, via win, would most likely be fifth-ranked and undefeated Jacob Lowry (36-0 record) of Thiel (Pa.). The bracket contains seven returning national qualifiers and five All-Americans.
TRACK RECORD: SJU has qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in 24 of the last 25 seasons. Better yet, at least one Johnnie has earned All-America honors each of the last eight seasons (19 of the last 21 seasons overall).