Becker Leads SJU at Rugged North Country Open

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Four Saint John’s wrestlers placed at the annual North Country Open on Saturday, Jan. 26, in Collegeville.

The tournament showcased 142 wrestlers from across the Upper Midwest, including Division I Minnesota, North Dakota State and South Dakota State, as well as Division II St. Cloud State and top-ranked (Division III) Augsburg.

Junior Noah Becker (Browerville, Minn.) won the 133-pound bracket, his fifth tournament victory of the season, with a 3-0 record to lead the Johnnies. He is now 24-2 on the year, including 13 consecutive wins and 22 victories in his last 23 matches. Becker started his day with a pin and defeated a pair of wrestlers from Division II Augustana (S.D.), one by a 6-2 decision and the other with an 18-1 technical fall. He was slated to face McGwire Midkiff of Division I North Dakota State in the championship bout, but Midkiff left the tournament following his 10-0 major decision over fourth-ranked Sam Bennyhoff of Augsburg in the semifinal.

Three Johnnies finished fifth. Junior Jerod Novak (Aitkin, Minn.) went 4-2 at 157 pounds, while senior Luke Dodd (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) and freshman Josh Clark (Fridley, Minn./Totino-Grace) posted 1-2 records at 197 and 125 pounds, respectively.

Novak opened the tournament with a pin, but his comeback (down 6-0 early) fell short in an 8-6 loss to St. Cloud State’s Boone Giulio in the quarterfinal. He battled back with a pin of South Dakota State’s Dalton Lakmann and a major decision (12-2) over Anthony Velazquez of Division II Mary (N.D.), but lost to top-ranked Ryan Epps of Augsburg 6-0. Novak took fifth with a forfeit and is now 9-5 on the year.

Dodd registered a 9-1 major decision over Jordan Urbach of Division II MSU-Moorhead in the quarterfinal, but suffered back-to-back defeats by one point. He dropped a 4-3 decision to Augsburg’s Lance Benick, who is ranked fourth in the country, in the semifinal and a 5-4 bout to Jacob Dykes of Division II Southwest Minnesota State. Dodd claimed fifth, uncontested, due to the departure of North Dakota State’s Cole Witzig.

Freshman Josh Clark (Fridley, Minn./Totino-Grace), like Novak, started his day with a pin but dropped two major decisions en route to the fifth-place match, which he claimed thanks to MSU-Moorhead’s Cameron Williams leaving the meet.

North Country Open Results

The Johnnies travel to Wisconsin-Eau Claire for a 7 p.m. dual on Friday, Feb. 1, and compete at the Blugolds’ tournament the following day.

-Josh Clark (1-2 – Fifth Place)
-Noah Becker (3-0 – Champion)
-Zack Zavadil (0-2)
-Anthony Hennen (0-2)
-Andrew Smith (1-2)
-Caleb Jungling (1-2)
-Jerod Novak (4-2 – Fifth Place)
-Dan Gainer (0-2)
-Jacob Scherber (1-2)
-Dan Gehrz (0-2)
-Dominic Skawiniak (0-1)
-Luke Dodd (1-2 – Fifth Place)

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