Johnnie Grapplers Set for This Weekend’s National Duals

No. 22 Saint John’s wrestling travels to Des Moines, Iowa, for the prestigious National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA)/Cliff Keen Division III National Duals this Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12, at the Iowa Events Center. The Johnnies are scheduled to face No. 5 Wilkes (Pa.) at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by the winner/loser of Centenary (N.J.) and No. 4 Wisconsin-Whitewater at 1 p.m.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: Saint John’s (6-6 dual record) went 2-1 at the Chicago Duals on Jan. 4. The Johnnies started the day with a pair of lopsided shutouts, 51-0 over McDaniel (Md.) and 46-0 over Manchester (Ind.), before falling to Dubuque (Iowa) 24-18. With the match tied 18-18, senior John Scepaniak (Avon, Minn./Holdingford) was ahead 10-0 in the heavyweight match but was pinned in the second period. Junior Joe Hessing (Loretto, Minn./Delano) was also ahead by a 6-0 margin in his match at 149 pounds but was pinned earlier in the dual.

Senior Ryan Arne (Orono, Minn.) went 3-0 at 157 pounds and is now 14-2 on the season. He registered two pins and a 6-1 decision over Dubuque’s Joseph Kubica, who is ranked No. 9 at 165 pounds by D3wrestle.com but wrestled down a weight class. Junior Ryan Michaelis (Monticello, Minn.) improved to 8-4 at 197 pounds with three pins, while sophomore John Wells (Janesville, Wis./Miltona) matched his teammates with a 3-0 mark at 125. Freshman Teddy Erickson (Annandale, Minn.) returned to action after missing the Vegas Duals on Dec. 21 with a perfect 4-0 record, including an exhibition win, at 174 pounds.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: As a team, SJU fell from No. 18 to No. 22 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) rankings released Jan. 6. Individually, sophomore Ben Henle (Spicer, Minn./New London-Spicer) fell from fifth to No. 9 nationally at 141 pounds. He is currently 9-4 on the season. Arne, meanwhile, is still unranked despite his 14-2 record at 157 pounds. Arne, Henle, Hessing, Michaelis and sophomore Josh Willaert (184 lbs.; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) were all listed as “Contenders,” just outside of the top 10, in the most recent D3wrestle.com rankings released Jan. 6. Wells was listed as honorable mention at 125 pounds.

SJU AT THE NATIONAL DUALS: This weekend’s appearance at the National Duals is SJU’s fifth since the 2008-09 season (9-9 record). The dual tournament was an annual appearance for the Johnnies until last year, when the team was not invited despite finishing 11th at the NCAA Division III Championships the previous March: 2008-09 (1-2); 2009-10, eighth place (2-3); 2010-11, sixth place (3-2); and 2011-12, seventh place (3-2).

WHO WILL BE THERE: The double-elimination dual tournament is scheduled to feature 16 prominent and/or nationally-ranked schools: No. 2 Augsburg, No. 9 Coe (Iowa), Centenary (N.J.), No. 6 Concordia-Moorhead, Elmhurst (Ill.), Loras (Iowa), No. 12 Luther (Iowa), No. 19 Mount Union (Ohio), New York, No. 22 SJU, No. 20 Springfield (Mass.), No. 3 Wabash (Ind.), No. 1 Wartburg (Iowa), No. 5 Wilkes (Pa.), No. 11 Wisconsin-La Crosse and No. 4 Wisconsin-Whitewater.

THE REST OF THE TEAM: The rest of the SJU wrestling team will compete at the Ridgewater Open, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Willmar.

A LOOK AT THE COLONELS: No. 5 Wilkes (10-1 dual record) enter this weekend with a nine-dual win streak and four nationally-ranked wrestlers. The Colonels sent four to nationals last March and finished 19th, one spot behind SJU. Three of the four qualifiers are in the 2013-14 lineup. Senior Kris Krawchuck (2-1 record) finished as the runner-up at 157 pounds, which included a 4-1 win over Arne in the quarterfinals. He did not compete during fall semester and is currently 2-1 on the year, ranked second nationally. Junior Mark Hartenstine, a Division I transfer from Campbell (N.C.), was the national tournament’s third seed at 149 and went 1-2. He is 20-1 on the season, 15-0 against Division III opponents, and ranked seventh nationally. Senior heavyweight William Fletcher (8-4 record) lost both of his matches at nationals and is listed as honorable mention by D3wrestle.com. Two others are nationally-ranked: senior Myzar Mendoza (14-2 record), No. 8 (D3wrestle.com)/No. 10 (NWCA) at 133 pounds, and junior Eric Bach (7-0 record), No. 10 at 197. Bach, however, is listed as a Contender, behind SJU’s Michaelis, by D3wrestle.com.

SECOND ROUND: Win or lose, SJU will face either Centenary (N.J.) or No. 4 Wisconsin-Whitewater in the second round at 1 p.m. Saturday. The first version of the bracket listed Elmhurst (Ill.) and Whitewater facing off in the opening round.

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