Northland Trio to compete at NJCAA National Wrestling Championship

The trio of Austin Hjelle, Sam Twistol and Craig Williams will represent Northland Community & Technical College at the 2015 NJCAA wrestling championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Feb. 27-28. All three wrestlers qualified for nationals by earning automatic bids as top-six finishers at their respective weight classes.

Twistol qualified for Nationals with a fourth place finish at 149 that included an 8-5 opening-round upset of 12th-ranked Trevor Schermer of Iowa Lakes and a near upset of eighth-ranked Teddy Harvey in the semifinals. Twistol trailed Harvey 4-3 entering the third period, but couldn’t pull off the upset in a 7-4 setback.

Northland PioneersTwistol rebounded from the semifinal loss to avenge a loss to MCAC champion Marcus Riggle of Itasca. The two had alternated wins during the regular season, with Twistol winning 5-3 in the Pioneers’ 30-18 win over Itasca on Jan. 14, and Riggle winning 7-4 at the conference tournament.

The rubber match was more wide open than the first two meetings. Both wrestlers scored takedowns and gave up multiple reversals. The match eventually found its way to overtime, tied 9-9. In overtime, Twistol secured double underhooks and countered a Riggle throw attempt for an eventual win by fall.

Twistol’s day concluded with a loss by fall to third-ranked Kevin Cooper of Ellsworth Community College in the third place match.

“Sam wrestled a great tournament,” said Scott DCamp, Northland head wrestling coach. “He put together his most complete tournament of the year at the right time.”

Northland 141-pounder Austin Hjelle became the second Pioneer wrestler to punch his ticket to nationals. After a first round loss to ninth-ranked Jason Alfau of Iowa Central, Hjelle pinned Thomas Kesky of Ridgewater College in the consolation quarterfinals, he dropped a 9-2 decision to top-ranked Andres Gonzales of Iowa Lakes in the consolation semifinals and finished the day with a 10-9 decision over Cory Hasbrouck of Itasca.

“Austin proved that he was the best Minnesota wrestler at his weight, with a dominating victory over Kesky and a win over Hasbrouck, where he held a comfortable lead after two periods and survived a late surge,” DCamp said.

Wrestling at 197 pounds, Williams became the third and final Pioneer wrestler to qualify for this year’s national meet. After losses to Kyler Matthews of North Iowa Area Community College by fall in the first round and sixth-ranked Sharod Wilson of Ellsworth by 11-5 decision in the consolation semifinals, Williams punched his ticket to Des Moines with a 4-2 win over Luke Nohns of Iowa Western CC.

“Craig battled in all three matches and appears to be settling into 197 as his weight class,” DCamp said. “He has a few techniques to clean up that could have given him wins in his first two matches.”

This will be Williams’ second trip to the national tournament. He took third in the district at 184 last season and reached the round of 16 with a 2-2 tournament performance. Hjelle and Twistol will be making their first national tournament appearances.

Also competing at the North Central District tournament for the Pioneers were Bennett Sauve at 125 pounds; Blake Yensen at 165 and Chris Kucera at heavyweight. Sauve and Yensen each finished seventh, one spot outside of an automatic national tournament birth; and Kucera took eighth at heavyweight.

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