Johnnies Look For a Combination of New and Returning Wrestlers to Step Up

St. John’s University to keep the building process going

By Matt Krumrie

With limited competition last season, head coach Kevin Schlitz is eager to get into the wrestling room and see what he's got heading into the 2021-2022 season. Several wrestlers return, but the team only had two events last season due to COVID-19 restrictions, so in a sense, they are almost starting over, even though wrestlers with experience return. There was no season-long open tournament schedule, region tournament, and unlike some other Minnesota and DIII teams, SJU wrestlers did not compete in the NWCA DIII national tournament.

That's why SJU is one of the great unknowns heading into the 2021-2022 college wrestling season.

"I expect to keep the building process going," says Schlitz, now in his fourth season as head coach. "We have added a host of newcomers to the program this year. I also expect to take a few steps towards that national stage."

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Vikings Are a Team Built on Work Ethic and a Desire to Grow

Itasca Community College is working hard to improve in all areas

By Matt Krumrie

The last time the Itasca CC Vikings wrestling team competed was during the 2019-2020 season. During that season head coach Joseph Umlauf led the Vikings to a top 30 finish at the NJCAA national tournament, a tie for second place at the MCAC tournament, and a 3-3 dual meet record. Three wrestlers from that team transferred to wrestle at four-year schools and the program was continuing its upward trajectory on and off the mat.

Then, just as momentum was continuing to build, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Vikings' 2020-2021 season.

While that didn't allow the team to compete, Umlauf didn't stop working to continue the progress he's made developing the Itasca CC wrestling program. Now in his third season, Umlauf has grown the roster from one wrestler when he took over to 30. Meanwhile, the team GPA and community service hours volunteered were the highest they've been in a decade.

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No Matter What The Score Is The Mavericks Are Going To Fight

Minnesota State University, Mankato expects to win at the highest level.

By Matt Krumrie

Eight of 10 starters return, including three All-Americans. A top-10 national ranking.

It seems like business as usual for head coach Jim Makovsky and his Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks wrestling program.

"This is one of the more experienced teams we've had," said Makovsky. "Everybody from 125 to 184 returns, so eight of our ten starters from a year ago return."

But having experience and a lofty national ranking to start the season (the Mavericks are ranked No. 10 in the first NWCA Division II coaches poll of the season) doesn't produce results. There is plenty of work to be done to accomplish individual and team goals. And even those who had success last year have room to improve.

"We can expect the guys who were All-Americans a year ago to take a couple more steps on the ladder, and then we have other guys that are right on the edge," says Makovsky. "We have several individuals that were close to qualifying for the national tournament. Our veteran presence and our depth make for a real competitive room."

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Expect Every Bison To Wrestle Hard For 7 Minutes

North Dakota State strives to be a top-20 team with multiple All-Americans

By Matt Krumrie

Several experienced wrestlers return for head coach Roger Kish's North Dakota State University Bison wrestling team in 2021-2022. The team is looking to use that experience to achieve even greater success this season. The Bison finished 2021 35th at the NCAA championships, 6th in the Big 12 Championships, and sent four wrestlers to the NCAA tournament.

The good news?

All four of those wrestlers are back, including Jared Franek (157), Luke Weber (165), Owen Pentz (197), Brandon Metz (285). Also back are regulars Kellyn March (133), Dylan Droegemueller (141), Jaden Van Maanen (149), Austin Brenner (174), and Michael Nelson (184).

Weber won the 165-pound Big 12 Championships and went 3-2 in the NCAA Championships but lost in the blood round, coming up one win short of becoming an All-American. Jared Franek finished second in the Big 12 championships, went 3-2 in the NCAA championships, and lost in the blood round, coming one win short of earning All-American honors. Those two are hungry and ready for redemption this season.

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Auggies Women Bring Passion, Heart, and the Highest Level of Technique in the Country to the Mat

The Sky is the Limit for the Augsburg University Auggies Women

By Matt Krumrie

A new coach. Same high expectations.

That's a quick overview of what to expect with the Augsburg women's wrestling program heading into the 2021-2022 season.

In June, Jake Short, a former University of Minnesota wrestler who has served as a coach for an elite wrestling school for the past three years, was named head coach of the Augsburg University women's wrestling team. Short replaces Max Mejia, who resigned in March after leading the Auggie women's wrestling team in its first two years as a varsity program, the only varsity women's wrestling program in Minnesota. The Auggies have won three individual national titles and earned 12 All-American honors in their first two seasons, most recently finishing in fifth place as a team at the 2021 National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships (NCAA schools).

Short wasted no time setting the bar high for himself and his wrestlers.

"This year, we have a lot of new things coming to this program; with a new coach and five incoming freshmen, we are excited for what is to come," he said. "A lot of these incoming freshmen will have an instant impact in our lineup. The key for us is the development of not only our wrestling but the bond we have as a team and growing as individuals. I believe we are a top-three team in the country and, even in the past couple of months, have grown as wrestlers. These women learn fast and cling to new information. Their willingness to learn and take on new challenges is second to none. Women's wrestling has grown in the state of Minnesota, and we plan to demonstrate just that on a national level."

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Cobbers Have Very Big Goals

Concordia College Focuses on Constant Improvement

By Matt Krumrie

Quincy Osborn is excited about the upcoming Concordia Cobbers wrestling season for many reasons. The obvious is that the Cobbers and all DIII wrestling teams get to compete in a full season schedule is exciting in itself. Then, add in the fact that the Cobbers lineup features seven starters, and you know why Osborn is looking forward to the chance to compete.

Last season, the Cobbers were ranked No. 17 in the nation heading into March - just two votes outside the top 15. With an experienced lineup set to wrestle a full schedule, Osborn has high expectations this season. However, what's unique about this team is that of the ten projected starters, eight are underclassmen.

"This team is still relatively young by grade but veteran by experience," says Osborn. "Our team leadership is some of the best that I've ever been around as an athlete and coach. They have set some very big goals for the team this season, both academically and athletically."

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Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Faribault Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

Perhaps more than any other sport, success in wrestling only comes when a wrestler is comfortable when things are going well, but also when they can persevere when things are not going their way. If they can't adapt to challenging situations, they are not going to last long. That is why Faribault head wrestling coach Jesse Armbruster and his staff make a point of making sure the Falcons' wrestlers get comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

Armbruster was comfortable in wrestling early.

"Wrestling was one of those sports that I gravitated towards early. I liked the one-on-one aspect. I liked the combat – that was always something I liked. I played football and baseball in high school, but wrestling was always the one."

After a successful high school career wrestling for Faribault, Armbruster became a three-time All-American for Augsburg – highlighted by a national title his junior season.

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Vikings Return a Lot of Experience

Augustana University Looking to Step It Up

By Matt Krumrie

Head coach Jason Reitmeier enters his 19th season coaching the Augustana Vikings wrestling program with high expectations. That's because the Vikings return ten wrestlers who have competed in the Super Region V tournament - arguably the toughest regional qualifier in Division II wrestling - and a lineup that boasts talent along with experience.

Others have also taken note. Augustana opened the season ranked No. 22 in the NWCA Preseason Division II coaches poll, with two wrestlers ranked - 2021 All-American Steven Hajas and 2021 national qualifier Brandon Carroll. Hajas finished third at 285 last season and is ranked fourth at 285 to start this season. Carroll is ranked 11th at 133. Other returning starters include Jack Huffman (141), Tyler Wagener (157), Dylan Schuck (165), Cade Mueller (174), Kolby Kost (184), Daniel Bishop (197), Keaten Schorr (149), Jacob Tvinnereim (165), and Jackson Sweeney (165). Schorr is moving up to 149 from 141, Tvinnereim is moving from 157 to 165, and Sweeney is moving from 165 to 184.

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