Johnnies ready for Upper Midwest Regional

Saint John’s wrestling competes at the NCAA Upper Midwest Regional this Friday (noon) and Saturday (11 a.m.), March 1-2, at Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Quandt Fieldhouse.

Competition begins Friday at noon and goes through the championship quarterfinals and consolation quarterfinals. The regional resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday and will award first through sixth at each weight class.

The top three finishers in each of the region’s 10 weight classes advance to the 2024 NCAA Division III Championships, which will be held March 15-16 at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s recorded bonus-point wins in four of the six matches for a 37-10 victory over Ridgewater back on Feb. 9 in Sexton Arena.

Sophomore Zachariah Hunter (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater Area) started the dual at 197 pounds with a second-period pin in 3:44 to improve his season record to 14-6.

Freshman Cody Kwak (Ridgeland, Wis./Menomonie) followed with a pin of his own at heavyweight, but in comeback fashion. Following a scoreless first period, Ridgewater’s Tucker Hugg deferred, and Kwak chose down to start the second. Hugg turned the advantage into a four-point near fall and escaped with 1:48 left in the third period to build a 5-0 lead. Kwak, however, scored a takedown and secured a pin with 1:05 remaining. The fall was the team-leading 14th for Kwak, who is now 18-9 on the season.

Freshman Erick Solano (Katy, Texas/Paetow) followed the double-forfeit at 125 pounds with a forfeit win at 133. Another freshman, Connor Krueger (Superior, Wis.), accrued a 9-2 lead in the first period en route to a 13-2 victory – his team-leading 20th of the season (20-8 record) – at 141.

Sophomore Andy Johnson (St. Cloud, Minn./Tech) edged his former high-school teammate – the Warriors’ Cody Brott – with a 4-2 decision at 174 pounds before Ben Gilbertson (Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice) put an exclamation point on Senior Night with a pin at 184. The Johnnies’ lone senior found himself down 4-3 due to a last-second takedown by Ridgewater’s Ross Meskimen at the end of the first period. Meskimen was down to start the second, and Gilbertson squeezed him way to a fall 50 seconds later to even his record at 8-8.

REGIONAL RANKINGS: Two Johnnies – Herbst (seventh at 174) and Hunter (eighth at 197 pounds) – were ranked in the top eight of their respective weight classes in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Upper Midwest region rankings released Feb. 26.

WHO WILL BE THERE: In addition to the Johnnies and host Pointers, the NCAA Upper Midwest region consists of No. 1 Augsburg, Aurora (Ill.), Carthage (Wis.), Chicago (Ill.), Concordia (Wis.), No. 11 Concordia-Moorhead, Elmhurst (Ill.), Lakeland (Wis.), Linfield (Ore.), the Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.), Pacific (Ore.), Wheaton (Ill.), No. 7 Wisconsin-Eau Claire, No. 3 Wisconsin-La Crosse, Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wisconsin-Platteville and Wisconsin-Whitewater.

FOR THE JOHNNIES: SJU is scheduled to send these eight wrestlers to this weekend’s NCAA Regional:
133: Freshman Erick Solano (6-11)
141: Freshman Connor Krueger (20-8)
157: Freshman Kris Castro (15-11)
165: Junior Noah Whitfield-Lopez (5-7)
174: Freshman Owen Herbst (9-2)
184: Senior Ben Gilbertson (8-8)
197: Sophomore Zachariah Hunter (14-6)
285: Freshman Cody Kwak (18-9)

Trackwrestling | Video

LAST YEAR: Gilbertson won his first match of the day at 184 pounds with a 3-1 decision, but fell to top-ranked Jarritt Shinhoster from Wisconsin-Whitewater via pin and exited the tourney with a narrow 7-5 decision at last year’s NCAA Regional held on the campus of Concordia (Wis.). He finished the season with a team-best 16-11 record.

A pair of juniors, Logan Thorsten (Foley, Minn.) and D.J. Myles (Dayton, Minn./Champlin Park), bounced back from opening-round defeats with a win but finished with 1-2 records on the day. Thorsten responded from a 10-5 loss with an 8-0 major decision at 157 pounds, but suffered a pin in the consolation’s second round. Myles, meanwhile, went 1-1 in a pair of prelim matches to reach the main bracket and fell to Whitewater’s Evan Danowski with a 7-3 score at 197 pounds.

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