By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Writer/Video Producer
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – No one wants to start their senior season sidelined by injury.
But Saint John’s senior wrestler Noah Becker is hoping the leg injury that kept him out of action early on actually represented a positive reversal of fortune.
“I’m thinking it may have worked out pretty well,” he said with a chuckle. “Hopefully, I got it out of the way now. Usually, I end up getting hurt at the end of the season.”
Indeed, injuries prior to the NCAA Division III Upper Midwest Regional meet the past two seasons have likely kept the Browerville High School graduate from returning to nationals, after qualifying at 133 pounds as a freshman in 2017.
Last year, Becker finished with a 27-4 record and was 25-2 heading into regionals. But he was limited by a leg injury that kept him from competing at full-strength.
“It happened two weeks before and I went down and tried to compete,” said Becker, who finished in sixth place overall at 133 pounds. “We tried taping it up a hundred different ways. And I won a couple of matches. But when I went up against the tougher competition, I just wasn’t able to defend very well. It made it tough.”
The previous season, Becker battled a foot injury at the regional meet and failed to advance to the second day at 125 pounds, finishing the year with a 20-10 record.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d have gone back to nationals at least one if not two times had he been healthy,” Johnnies head coach Kevin Schiltz said.
“He’s that talented.”
He’s certainly proven that since returning from injury this season. Becker, who was injured in captain’s practice prior to the start of practice, now boasts a record of 12-1 and is ranked as high as No. 3 nationally at 133 pounds.
He has won eight straight, including a huge 6-3 decision over Augsburg senior Victor Gliva in a dual meet on Jan. 4. At the time, Gliva was ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation in the weight class.
“It’s all starting to come together,” said Becker, who made the state tournament three times during his high school career, finishing third in Class A at 120 pounds as a senior in 2016.
“Early on, coming off the injury, I felt like my conditioning wasn’t quite there. But it’s back now. I’m feeling as strong as I ever have.”
Away from the mat, Becker has kept busy as well. In December, he was one of the College of Saint Benedict and SJU students selected to attend the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain.
That experience goes hand-in-hand with the potential career goals the global business leadership major has set for himself.
“I’m interested in business and sustainability,” he said. “More specifically, things like renewable energy. So I’m looking at options there. I have no specific plans yet. It’s something I’ll look into more during the year I’m spending abroad.”
That year abroad will be spent at Saint Gertrude Convent of Imiliwaha in Imiliwaha, Tanzania.
Becker is one of 24 Johnnies seniors who have been selected to take part in the 2020-21 Benedictine Volunteer Corps.
The BVC is a service opportunity offered to recent graduates of SJU. According to its mission, “grounded in Benedictine values and spirituality, the BVC provides a unique encounter with the Catholic monastic tradition, the multitude of needs expressed in religious communities around the world and the challenge to commit one’s talents to meeting those needs.”
Since it was founded in 2003, the BVC has sent over 240 volunteers to Benedictine monasteries around the world. Participants spend 10 months to a year supporting those communities in their work, prayer and common life.
“A couple of years ago, I read a book called ‘The Coddling of the American Mind,’ and it talked a lot about spending time in service and volunteering and how important that was,” Becker said. “It was really a different perspective than I’d heard before and I started looking around at different options.
“A couple of other wrestlers and guys who have been mentors to me had taken part in the Benedictive Volunteer Corps, and when I found out more about it, I was hooked.
“I want to be part of something that makes a positive change in a community. And I feel like this opportunity in Tanzania really gives me a chance to do that.”
But first comes the rest of the wrestling season. And Becker isn’t just aiming at finally getting back to nationals.
He has his sights set higher than that.
“My goal has always been to be an All-American (top eight nationally), and in the back of my mind, I’ve wanted to know what it would feel like to be a national champion,” he said. “Now it seems like I might have a realistic chance to do that.”
Of course, that means staying healthy.
“Hopefully we’re all good now,” he said. “I’ve already had my injury for the year.”
Check out Johnnies Wrestling at gojohnnies.com.