Great Lakes Regional Preview

Great Lakes Regional Championships – 29 qualifiers
Saturday, February 26, 2011 at Lakeland
Returning Qualifiers/AA: Roberts (Augsburg, 4th, 125), Fitzenreider (North Central, 133), Batsukh (St. John’s, 1st, 141, now 149), Valek (Augsburg, 2nd, 149), Berns (Concordia-MN, 7th, 149, now 157), Skillings (St. Olaf, 157), Ponce (Augsburg, 2nd, 165, now 157), Baarson (St. John’s, 165), Waples (St. Olaf, 165), Molitor (Augsburg, 3rd, 174), Dankers (Concordia-MN, 8th, 174), Moenkedick (Concordia-MN, 1st, 184), Baxter (St. John’s, 7th in ’09, 184), Massey (Augsburg, 3rd, 197), Corsello (Elmhurst, 285)

Ranked first at various times this season, Augsburg is the top ranked team coming into the regional at #3. They are closely followed, however, by #6 Concordia and #7 St. JOhn’s. Concordia has even defeated the Auggies in a dual meet, dealing Augsburg only its fourth loss to a MIAC school since 1975. As is typical, this region is packed with talent and even earned an extra wildcard spot compared to last season, bringing the total number of qualifiers up to 29. There are four returning NCAA finalists from last year, and that does not include a pair of finalists from 2009 who did not make it back last year. It should be a good team race between the top three with plenty of other teams sending individuals to the NCAA championships. The finals at 149 should be a marquee matchup between two time champ Batsukh (at 141) of St. John’s and last year’s runner up Valek of Augsburg.

125 Ranked Wrestlers – Presler (Concordia, 4th), Roberts (Augsburg, 5th), Scholten (Augustana, Contender)
Roberts was an All-American last year, fighting his way back to fourth after losing in the semifinals. He has lost to Presler this year, a junior who has done much better since dropping to 125 in January. Roberts has, however, defeated serveral other top ten competitors despite falling twice to McKinney of La Crosse, the wrestler he beat to make the semifinals last season. Scholten is a freshman with 34 wins who has yet to see either Presler or Roberts, but he has avenged several of his losses to other wrestlers in the Rankings. Other contenders at this weight are DeLigio of MSOE and Laskowske of Elmhurst.

133 Ranked Wrestlers – Fitzenreider (North Central, 2nd), Henle (St. John’s, 10th), Hohbein (Concordia, Contender), Denhof (Elmhurst, HM), Suparat (Augsburg, HM), Lubner (Concordia-WI, HM)
Fitzenreider was the #2 seed at the NCAA championships last season before faltering and failing to place after running into current #1 Livingston of Centenary in the All-American round. This year, he is ranked #2 behind that same Livingston and should be favored to make a return trip to the championships in search of redemption. His only losses are at the Midlands, and he has beaten several of the competitors at this weight, though he has not yet seen Henle or Hohbein, and they may be his top competition here. Henle has defeated Hohbein and split with Suparat. Augsburg tends to have a good showing at this tournament, so perhaps Suparat can shake off some recent losses and get to La Crosse.

141 Ranked Wrestlers – Zobac (North Central, 10th), Sandy (St. John’s, Contender), Hansen (Augsburg, Contender), Quiros (Augustana, Contender), Timmerman (St. Olaf, HM), Baca (Elmhurst, HM)
Lots of new faces here compared to last year where Batsukh was the national champ and two time runner up Vanier also appeared. This year, Zobac is in the top spot and in the top ten. He has just one DIII loss, but it was to Elmhurst’s Baca. Zobac holds a 2-1 season edge over Baca, however. Sandy transferred from Wartburg to St. John’s looking for a spot in a starting lineup, and he found it with the Johnnies. His only losses are to top ranked wrestlers, and he has some good wins. Hansen is ranked, but he has not wrestled in awhile, so Augsburg’s entry could be Keeter instead. Quiros and Narveson of MSOE both have over 30 wins and cannot be counted out, while Timmerman is 25-4 with losses to both Quiros and Sandy.

149 Ranked Wrestlers – Batsukh (St. John’s, 3rd), Valek (Augsburg, 4th), Earley (Elmhurst, HM)
What 149 lacks in ranking depth, it more than makes up for in quality, as you have two time 141 champ Batsukh match up with 149 runner-up Valek. Batsukh took the first match between the two 6-1, and both have lost to the #2 ranked wrestler Woszczak of Ithaca. Valek has also lost to Groth of Wartburg, while both have defeated three time All-American Mauseth of La Crosse. It looks to be a two man race here, as the other entrants here cannot match the firepower of these accomplished competitors. Earley is the next best guy here, but he has yet to beat anyone with a good chance of making it to La Crosse.

157 Ranked Wrestlers – Ponce (Augsburg, 4th), Berns (Concordia, 6th), Roberson (Lakeland, Contender), Larson (St. John’s, HM), Skillings (St. Olaf, HM)
A fairly deep weight class, the big news here came when last year’s NCAA runner up at 165 Ponce made a late move down in weight to earn the top spot here. Berns was an All-American at 149 before moving up to 157 this season and has earned a #6 ranking. His only DIII loss is to the #2 ranked Banks of Wartburg. He has not wrestled Roberson, but has beaten Larson of St. John’s and Bodi of North Central. Roberson is a senior with just two losses, and he is poised to possibly pick up a wildcard with a good weekend. Pope of MSOE was an NCAA qualifier in 2009, and Skillings was a qualifier at this weight last year and cannot be counted out.

165 Ranked Wrestlers – Baarson (St. John’s, 1st), Bahr (Augsburg, Contender), Graham (Augustana, HM), Renon (Lakeland, HM), Waples (St. Olaf, HM)
Baarson lost to the 3rd and 4th place finishers last year at the NCAA tournament, but he is right now ranked #1 above both of them. His only DIII loss on the year is to LeClere of Coe, but he later avenged that loss to earn his current ranking. Bahr stepped into the Augsburg lineup when defending runner-up Ponce dropped to 157, dropping himself from 174 to 165 in order to get a starting spot. He has only been at 165 for a few weeks, but his last win was against NCAA qualifier Schulte from Stevens Point. Graham and Renon are a step down from the top contenders but still good. Waples has only wrestled Baarson from this group, but he was an NCAA qualifier last year at this weight.

174 Ranked Wrestlers – Molitor (Augsburg, 3rd), Pfarr (St. John’s, 5th), Dankers (Concordia, 6th), Savegnago (Elmhurst, Contender), Schroeder (North Central, HM), Vavra (Augustana, HM)
Molitor would probably be ranked #1 if he had ever been able to beat Schmitz of La Crosse, but two losses to him this year to go along with one in the national semis last year have him at #3, which is enough to be the top guy at this weight in the region. Beyond rankings, he has wins over Dankers and Pfarr, and those losses to Schmitz are the only two he has suffered in DIII this year. Pfarr was not a qualifier last year, but he beat the All-American Dankers as well as the highly ranked Priest of Ithaca. With three wrestlers in the top ten, Savegnago, Schroeder, and Vavra may be out of luck when it comes to the wildcard meeting, especially given what we are about to see at the next weight.

184 Ranked Wrestlers – Moenkedick (Concordia, 1st), Baxter (St. John’s, 4th), Baus (Augsburg, 7th), Rau (Elmhurst, 9th), Rudd (St. Olaf, Contender), Marble (Wheaton, Contender), Malone (North Central, Contender)
Someone good is going to be left at home. With seven of the top 18 wrestlers in the country in the same weight class, it is the only reasonable conclusion. Moenkedick should be safe, considering his only loss is to the Minnesota starter Steinhaus and he has not yet been in danger of losing a match since then. He blanked the #2 ranked wrestler at the weight and beat the #4 ranked Baxter 8-3. What happens below him is what will be interesting. Baxter and Baus have split this year, Rhoads is the Wheaton champ, and Rau has just two losses (one to Rhoads). Marble is the leader in wins, but may be the first man left home if the coaches take two wildcards here (top two at each weight are auto qualifiers). That “honor” could also go to Rudd, as he has a win over Marble early on. Malone is 30-9, but six of those losses are courtesy of Marble and Rau.

197 Ranked Wrestlers – Massey (Augsburg, 3rd), Willaert (St. John’s, 10th), Schmitz (Concordia, Contender)
Massey is a former champ who was third last year; his only loss is to Tate, the defending champ. He has beaten Tate before, however. He could definitely get a rematch in the NCAA finals coming out of the #3 seed. Willaert could also become an All-American. He lost to Massey but beat Schmitz this year, solidifying his #2 spot in the conference. If that seed holds, he will punch his ticket to La Crosse. Schmitz may be overshadowed in the Cobber lineup by the two All-Americans below him, but he is hovering just outside the top ten and only needs one hot weekend to place. Things start to thin out after these three, though all three could qualify.

285 Ranked Wrestlers – Corsello (Elmhurst, 2nd), Johnson (Augsburg, 7th), Bourressa (Concordia, 9th)
Corsello was undefeated and the #1 seed last year after a runner-up performance the year before, but he faltered in Cedar Rapids and failed to win a match. This year, he is back and again undefeated. He is ranked #2 and should carry that through to La Crosse with a good performance Saturday. He has beaten several ranked opponents this year. Johnson is a freshman stepping into All-American Andy Witzel’s shoes and filling them well. With this weight cleared out from last year, he is sitting in good position to place. Bourressa is 20-4 without having wrestled Johnson or Corsello. It is Corsello’s weight to lose as he looks to finish his career as a three time All-American and national champion.