SJU’s Sights Set on Saturday’s NCAA Wrestling Regional

The Johnnie wrestling team returns to competition at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday, Feb. 28. The meet is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Augsburg’s Si Melby Hall in Minneapolis.

Saint John's JohnniesTOURNAMENT FORMAT: The top three at each weight class qualify for the 2015 NCAA Division III Championships, which are scheduled for March 13-14 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

– Live Results | Live Video (Semifinals and Championship/Third-Place matches only, 12:30 p.m.) | Regional Website

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: No. 6 Concordia-Moorhead built an 18-0 lead en route to a 39-3 win over Saint John’s back on Feb. 13 in Collegeville. The Cobbers won five of the six matches decided by three points or less. Jake Krogstad, who is ranked as high as third in the country, started the dual at 165 pounds with a pin of sophomore Teddy Erickson (Annandale, Minn.) with one second left in the second period (ahead 6-3). Concordia added a pin and two more decisions before sophomore Colin Fisher (Eagan, Minn.) put SJU on the scoreboard with a 3-2 win, thanks to 1:40 of riding time, at heavyweight. Junior Ben Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) suffered his first loss to a Division III wrestler this season, 2-0 to the Cobbers’ Jacoby Bergeron at 141 pounds. Bergeron, who is ranked as high as fourth nationally, chose down to start the second and earned an escape. Henle, ranked seventh, chose down to start the third, but could not escape during the entire two-minute third period to give Bergeron the extra point for riding time (1:40 total). Sophomore Branden Schorr (Mantorville, Minn./Kasson-Mantorville) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead at 149 pounds but gave up seven straight points before falling by pin in 3:47. Freshman Chase Monger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) ended the dual with a 3-1 loss at 157 pounds on a takedown at the final horn. Senior Ryan Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.), who is 10-1 and ranked as high as sixth nationally at 197 pounds, did not wrestle.

HE’S BACK: Junior Josh Willaert (Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) started the 2014-15 ranked 10th nationally in both major polls at 174 pounds and went 2-0 at the Augsburg Open Nov. 22 before suffering a rib injury. Saturday’s Regional will be Willaert’s first competition back.He just missed nationals with a pair of fourth-place finishes as a freshman (174) and sophomore (184) at the NCAA Regional.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: Henle moved up one spot to seventh nationally at 141 pounds in the latest rankings released by the NWCA Feb. 25. He is still ranked eighth by D3wrestle.com (Feb. 18). Michaelis, meanwhile, stayed at sixth (D3wrestle.com) and ninth (NWCA).

REGIONAL TRADITION: SJU has qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in 24 of the last 25 seasons.

WHO’S GOING: Interim head coach Tony Willaert’s 10-man lineup is tentatively set to include six underclassmen, four of which are freshmen.

125: Tevin Zavadil (7-10)
133: Evan Guffey (12-12)
141: Ben Henle (24-7)
149: Branden Schorr (2-15)
157: Chase Monger (5-9)
165: Jackson Graham (5-3)
174: Josh Willaert (2-0)
184: Nick Pegelow (11-16)
197: Ryan Michaelis (10-1)
285: Colin Fisher (10-7)

THE COMPETITION: The NCAA West Region currently boasts 10 nationally-ranked wrestlers, including three returning All-Americans. Augsburg’s Mike Fuenffinger returns after winning the national title at 125 pounds. Sean Ambrocio of Concordia (Wis.) finished eighth at 125 pounds last year but bumped up a weight class to 133 in 2014-15. Concordia-Moorhead’s Jacoby Bergeron claimed sixth at 133 pounds in 2014 and is currently at 141.

125
No. 1: Mike Fuenffinger, Augsburg

133
No. 6/7: Sean Ambrocio, Concordia (Wis.)
No. 10: Chad Bartschenfeld, Augsburg

141
No. 4/6: Jacoby Bergeron, Concordia-Moorhead
No. 7/8: Ben Henle, SJU

165
No. 3/4: Jake Krogstad, Concordia-Moorhead

174
No. 3/8: Sebastian Gardner, Concordia-Moorhead

197
No. 6/9: Ryan Michaelis, SJU
No. 7: Matt Hechsel, Augsburg

285
No. 2/3: Donny Longendyke, Augsburg

WHO WILL BE THERE: In addition to SJU and the host Auggies, the NCAA West Region in wrestling also includes Concordia-Moorhead, Concordia (Wis.), Lakeland (Wis.), Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.), Pacific (Ore.), St. Olaf, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Wisconsin-Platteville.

LAST YEAR’S REGIONAL: SJU earned two national entrants, Henle and Michaelis, and finished third out of 12 teams at last year’s NCAA West Regional. Augsburg won the regional with a total of 148 points, followed by Concordia-Moorhead (136.5), 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 then-No. 5 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 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. Willaert 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.

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