Four Johnnies Begin NCAA Wrestling Championships Friday in La Crosse

Four Saint John’s wrestlers travel to Wisconsin for the 2017 NCAA Division III Championships this Friday and Saturday, March 10-11 at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse.

Action begins at 11 a.m. Friday with preliminary rounds one and two, and consolation first-round matches, on six mats. Session two starts at 6 p.m. Friday with the championship quarterfinals and consolation second and third rounds.

The championship semifinals, consolation quarterfinal, consolation semifinals and consolation places matches for third, fifth and seventh-places start at 10 a.m. Saturday. The championship final round is set for 7 p.m.

sjulogoTHE FIELD: A total of 180 participants from 65 teams will compete at the NCAA Championships. Student-athletes qualified for the championship by placing top-three in their respective weight classes at one of the six NCAA regional tournaments held February 24-26.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: finished third out of 11 teams and earned four national qualifiers at the NCAA West Regional two weeks ago (Feb. 25) at Concordia-Moorhead. Freshman Noah Becker (133; Browerville, Minn.), sophomore Luke Dodd (184; Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview), senior Teddy Erickson (165; Annandale, Minn.) and senior Robert Tait (Faribault, Minn./Bethlehem Academy) all qualified for this weekend’s NCAA Division III Championships. No. 2 Augsburg won the meet with a total of 159 points, followed by No. 24 Concordia-Moorhead (123.5), SJU (90) and Wisconsin-Platteville (86).

Lesson of the day? Never count out seniors Teddy Erickson and Robert Tait. Tait won his first match of the day at 197 pounds, 8-2, but lost the semifinal to the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Devin Mahnke, 4-2. The deciding points were a penalty for allegedly pulling Mahnke’s singlet and riding time. Tait battled back with a pin in 1:16 to reach the third-place bout, where he punched his ticket with a wild 10-8, overtime win over Augsburg’s Sebastian Larson. Down 7-4 late in the match, Tait posted a takedown, let Larson escape, and tied the match at 8-8 with a takedown as time expired. He won the sudden-victory overtime with a takedown 20 seconds in.

Like Tait, Erickson won his first match of the day at 165 pounds but suffered a defeat in the semifinals. He bounced back with a thrilling 10-8 overtime win over the Cobbers’ Travis Deegan in the consolation semifinal. Erickson entered the third period down 4-3 with 1:43 of riding time against him, gave up a takedown but then scored a reversal. The ensuing escape made it 7-5, but Deegan was called for stalling and Erickson earned a takedown with four seconds left on the edge of the mat to tie it at 8-8. Erickson rode the momentum to a takedown with 38 seconds left in the sudden-victory overtime to advance to the third-place match, where he tallied a 6-2 win to punch his ticket.

Dodd suffered a tough loss in his first match of the day at 184 pounds but battled back with three straight wins to earn his first trip to nationals. On the bottom and ahead 2-1, Dodd gave up a four-point near-fall with 20 seconds remaining in the 6-2 opening-round loss. He retaliated with a pin and advanced to the third-place match with a 9-5 decision. Dodd amassed 5:12 of riding time in a 9-0 major-decision win over Concordia’s Ricky Briggs to claim third.

Freshman Noah Becker (Browerville, Minn.) just missed a technical fall (19-5) in his first match of the day, but lost his semifinal bout via technical fall (20-3) at 133 pounds. He bounced back with a pin in the consolation semifinal and edged Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Cody Vogel, 9-6, to take third place. Becker is the first SJU freshman to make the national tournament since Dustin Baxter ’12 in 2008.

Freshman Jerod Novak (Aitkin, Minn.) just missed a trip to nationals with a 4-2 loss to Augsburg’s Grant Parker in the third-place match. He finished 3-2 on the day to end his season with a 20-14 record.

CONTINUED SUCCESS: SJU has now qualified two or more wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in 27 of the last 28 seasons. The three entrants are the program’s most in four years, since it sent six in 2012-13.

NOVAK ENTERS HALL TONIGHT: Former Saint John’s national-champion wrestler and head wrestling coach Brandon Novak ’01 will be among five individuals inducted into the Division III National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) Hall of Fame prior to the Division III national championships tonight at 6:30 p.m. in La Crosse, Wis.

Novak joins two other honorees related to SJU wrestling. His former coach, John Elton ’80, was a 2007 inductee. Former coach Terry Haws received the 2008 Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award from the Minnesota chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

A native of Becker, Minn., Novak was a four-time national qualifier, three-time All-American and a 2001 national champion for the Johnnies. As a freshman, Novak placed fifth nationally at 190 pounds. After a return trip where he did not place as a sophomore, he qualified again as a junior, taking third at 197 pounds.

His senior year (2000-01) was one of the best individual seasons in Johnnie wrestling history. He dominated his way to a 23-1 record, with his only loss coming to a non-Division III opponent. He earned the Carl Larson Trophy, as the most valuable wrestler at the MIAC Tournament, following a conference championship at 197 pounds and capped his illustrious career with a national title. His career winning percentage of .871 (101-15 record) is still the best in SJU history.

In addition to his domination on the mat, Novak was also a standout football student-athlete at SJU. He was a two-time All-American linebacker and was named the 1999 MIAC Most Valuable Player.9867

After graduation, he pursued a coaching career at SJU. He spent 10 seasons as SJU’s head wrestling coach from 2004-14 and compiled an 83-73 dual record. Novak coached 21 NWCA Scholar All-Americans and 16 All-Americans, including a school-record five All-Americans in 2011. Minga Batsukh ’11 won three consecutive national championships from 2009-11. He stepped down as head coach in 2014 and currently serves as SJU football’s co-defensive coordinator. The 2017 season will be his 18th as an assistant coach on the Johnnies’ sidelines.

AT 133: Becker (24-9 record, 24-9 career) earned his first trip to nationals and will face second-seeded Nathan Pike (11-2 record) of NYU, who is ranked third nationally and is a two-time All-American. He was the national runner-up last season. This is the second year in a row that a first-time national qualifier from SJU will face Pike in their first bout; Pike pinned Mike Pleski ’16 last year.

AT 165: Erickson (16-9 record, 49-59 career) will make his second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament in a pigtail match against Nick Herring (23-3 record) of the College of New Jersey at 165 pounds. The winner of the match faces sixth-seeded Nolan Barger (35-3 record) of Lycoming (Pa.), who is ranked fifth nationally.

AT 184: Dodd (18-9, 27-20 career), like Erickson, opens the tournament Friday with a pig-tail match. He faces Ryan Shank (37-8 record) of Waynesburg (Pa.) to start the day at 184 pounds and the winner will face No. 4 Justin Kreiter (24-2 record) of Luther (Iowa), who is ranked fifth nationally and is the highest returning place-winner (fourth) at 184 from last year’s tournament.

AT 197: Tait (13-4, 41-30 career) begins his day with a tough draw, as he faces top-seeded and top-ranked Riley Lefever (35-3 record) of Wabash (Ind.) in the first round. Lefever has yet to lose to a Division III opponent in his career and is the “most dominant” wrestler in Division III, according to the NCAA, due to his average of 5.85 team points per match this season. He won the last three national championships at 184 pounds and bumped up to 197 in 2016-17.

Visit The Guillotine College Tournament Time Page for brackets, results, and live video links.

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