SJU Hosts Eau Claire Friday, Annual North Country Open Saturday

Saint John’s wrestling hosts a pair of competitions this weekend, beginning with Alumni Night at 7 p.m. against Wisconsin-Eau Claire Friday, Jan. 24. The Johnnies then host the annual North Country Open at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25.

NO ILLINOIS TRIP: The Johnnies were unable to make the trip to Illinois for last Saturday’s (Jan. 18) Al Hanke Invitational due to the winter storm.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s competed in a pair of events two weekends ago (Jan. 10-11) in Iowa. The Johnnies opened the trip with a 28-20 loss to Buena Vista and competed the following day at Central’s Under Armour Invitational.

On Jan. 10, the Johnnies answered a forfeit at 125 pounds with back-to-back 9-0 wins from seniors Noah Becker (Browerville, Minn.) and Anthony Hennen (Cologne, Minn./Norwood-Young America) to gain a short-lived 8-6 lead. The Beavers, however, won four of the next five matches to accumulate a 28-11 lead. Senior Jerod Novak (Aitkin, Minn.) picked up SJU’s lone win during that span with an 8-2 victory at 157 pounds. Senior Dominic Skawiniak (Rogers, Minn.) edged his opponent at 197 pounds, 8-7, and freshman Mason Nibbe (Elbow Lake, Minn./West Central Area) closed the dual with a pin at heavyweight.

SJU then crowned three champions Jan. 11 at Central. Becker extended his win streak to eight matches with a 4-0 record to win the 133-pound bracket. Novak won the title at 157 pounds with a trio of decisions, improving to 8-3 this season, while sophomore Jacob Scherber (Buffalo, Minn.) totaled three bonus-point wins to take the 174-pound title. He won the championship by injury default and is now 18-10 on the year.

A pair of Johnnie seniors won consolation titles by answering an opening-round loss with three straight wins at their respective weights. Anthony Hennen (Cologne, Minn./Norwood-Young America) posted a pair of pins and a decision at 141 pounds, while Skawiniak recorded three pins at 197. Senior Dan Gehrz (Mendota Heights, Minn./St. Thomas Academy) won the silver bracket’s 184-pound title with two decisions (and an injury default in the championship bout).

UP TO NO. 3: Becker (12-1 record) moved up one spot to No. 3 at 133 pounds in the latest rankings released Jan. 14 and dropped one notch to No. 6 in the National Wrestling Coaches’ Association rankings posted Jan. 15.

FRIDAY’S PROBABLE MATCHUPS: The Johnnies and Blugolds are scheduled to send these lineups to the mat Friday.

125: Open vs. Erik Gerovac (3-8)
133: No. 3/6 Noah Becker (12-1) vs. Jack Marley (17-12)
141: Anthony Hennen (7-12) vs. Tyler Demo (14-4)
149: Carter Entinger (0-1)/Graham Evavold (0-6) vs. Jake Drexler (19-2)
157: Jerod Novak (8-3) vs. Alfred Daniel (3-4)/Tristan Massie (13-9)
165: Logan Edwards (2-10) vs. Chase Schmidt (14-6)
174: Jacob Scherber (18-10) vs. Evan Lawrence (17-3)
184: Dan Gehrz (9-8)/Lincoln Shinn (7-6) vs. Grant Balconi (9-9)
197: Dominic Skawiniak (11-9) vs. James Huntley (11-4)
285: Mason Nibbe (6-6)/Quincy Spiering (4-7) vs. Blaze Beltran (5-3)/Noah Carter (4-2)

A LOOK AT THE BLUGOLDS: Wisconsin-Eau Claire (10-4 dual record) suffered a 27-12 loss Tuesday night (Jan. 21) at No. 13 Wisconsin-Whitewater. Junior Chase Schmidt (6-1 at 165), senior Grant Balconi (fall at 184) and sophomore Jack Marley (9-5 at 133) served as the Blugolds’ wins. UWEC took third place with a 4-2 record Jan. 10-11 at the Budd Whitehill Duals in Pennsylvania. Sophomore Jake Drexler and junior James Huntley were named to the All-Tournament team. Drexler went a perfect 5-0 with two pins at 149 pounds, while Huntley was 4-0 with two pins at 197.

LAST YEAR’S DUAL: The shorthanded Johnnies suffered a 45-3 dual loss last year at Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Feb. 1. Novak won the lone match for the Johnnies, who forfeited three weights, with an 8-1 win at 157 pounds.

UWEC recorded three pins and two narrow decisions. Anthony Hennen lost a close 9-8 match at 141 pounds and Scherber relinquished a takedown in the first overtime (sudden victory) for a 5-3 loss at 174.

Watch Blugolds at Johnnies Live

WHO WILL BE HERE: On Saturday, the Johnnies are scheduled to be joined by wrestlers from Augsburg, Division II Augustana (S.D.), Division I Minnesota, Division II MSU-Mankato, NAIA Morningside, Division I North Dakota State, Northland C.C., Division II St. Cloud State, Division II Southwest Minnesota State, St. Olaf and Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

LAST YEAR’S NORTH COUNTRY: Four Saint John’s wrestlers placed at last year’s North Country Open on Jan. 26, (2019) 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.

Becker won the 133-pound bracket, his fifth tournament victory of the season, with a 3-0 record to lead the Johnnies. He 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.

Novak went 4-2 to take fifth place at 157 pounds and Luke Dodd ’19 posted a 1-2 record for fifth at 197. 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.

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 was 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.

North Country Open Brackets/Results on

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