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Lakeland College is hosting the 2011 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Wrestling Regional on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Todd Wehr Center.
It's just the third time Lakeland has hosted an NCAA postseason tournament event, and the first in wrestling. Lakeland hosted Division III NCAA women's basketball first-round games in 1999 and 2002.
The Great Lakes Regional will bring 15 teams from the Midwest and West to Lakeland as wrestlers attempt to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Championships, which will be held March 11-12 at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis. A total of 29 wrestlers will qualify for the national tournament from the Great Lakes Regional, including first- and second-place finishers in each weight class, plus nine at-large wrestlers selected by the regional coaches.
After winning its fourth-straight team championship at the Northern Wrestling Association Tournament, Lakeland has nine grapplers riding momentum into the regional. The Muskies are led by senior Issac Roberson, who was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the NWA Tournament. The 157-pound grappler claimed his second NWA Title, and looks to earn his first trip to nationals.
Sophomore Ryan Renon also headlined Lakeland's recent success as the 165-pound wrestler claimed his second consecutive NWA title. The Wrightstown, Wis., native hopes to secure his first bid to nationals after finishing fourth in Minneapolis in last season's regional.
Senior Rob Forgette and junior Robby Frias return to regionals to compete at 197 and 141, respectively. Forgette won the 197-pound title at the NWA Tournament. Last year, the Menominee, Mich., native posted a 1-2 record at regionals. Frias placed second at the NWA Tournament and the Oak Lawn, Ill., native recorded a 2-2 record at last year's regional.
Competing in their first regional are freshmen Grant Franson (Lindenhurst, Ill.), Jacob Bugajski (Chicago, Ill.) and Tom Phalin (Sheboygan, Wis.) at 125, 149 and 285, respectively. Junior Miguel Luis (Oak Lawn, Ill.) heads into his first regional after winning his first NWA title at 174.
After wrestling two weight classes up at the NWA and placing third at 184, senior Nick Kusta (Oak Lawn, Ill.) will also make his first regional appearance.
Lakeland hopes to send a wrestler to nationals for the fourth straight year. Lakeland has sent four wrestlers to nationals in program history.
Defending NCAA Division III national champion Augsburg (Minn.) enters the regional as the No. 3-ranked team in the latest Division III national rankings. Since joining the region in 2003, Augsburg has dominated regional competition, winning each of the eight regional titles.
The Auggies have won a Division III-record 11 national titles in the last 20 seasons, while also earning a trophy (finishing in the top four in NCAA competition) 22 straight years, the longest active streak of any NCAA wrestling program, regardless of division.
Defending national runners-up Tony Valek (JR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West) and Orlando Ponce (JR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) have had strong seasons. At 149, fifth-ranked Valek has a 31-4 record with 14 pins and enters the regional on a seven-match winning streak. In early February, Ponce moved from 165 to 157 and has continued to dominate, with a 27-5 record and No. 4 national ranking. Ponce has won 10 straight matches, including all seven (with two pins and two major decisions) since moving to 157.
Jared Massey (SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS), the 2009 national champion and third-place finisher last year at 197, enters the regional with a 13-1 record and No. 2 national ranking. Massey, who competed at Division I Wisconsin in 2003-04 before taking four seasons off from collegiate wrestling, has a 71-3 record in his three seasons at Augsburg, with 42 of his wins (59.2 percent) coming as "bonus-point" victories -- 29 pins, three technical falls and 11 major decisions.
Two-time All-American Zach Molitor (SR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS) has had a strong season at 174, entering the regional ranked No. 3 nationally with a 21-3 record and 10 pins. Molitor, who finished third nationally last season, is 84-17 in his three seasons at Augsburg and 102-30 in his collegiate career.
Josh Roberts (SO, Grand Forks, N.D./Central HS), a fourth-place finisher last season at 125, enters the regional with a 19-7 record and three pins. At 184, Brad Baus (JR, Mukwonago, Wis.) has had a strong season, entering the regional with a 26-10 record, including 16 pins, and a No. 6 national ranking.
Four Auggies will be competing in the regional for the first time -- 133-pounder Boyd Suparat (SO, North Branch, Minn.), 141-pounder Will Keeter (FY, Twin Falls, Idaho), 165-pounder Brandon Bahr (JR, Bemidji, Minn.) and heavyweight Chad Johnson (FY, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS). Bahr has a 29-13 record with a team-high 21 pins, while Johnson is 24-8 and has won 14 of his last 15 matches. Suparat is 21-13 and Keeter is 24-16.
Three Augustana wrestlers have eclipsed the 30-victory plateau heading into the regional.
Scholten is 35-6 at 125 pounds, while sophomore Alejandro Vavra is 32-14 at 177 and junior Alberto Quiros has fashioned a 31-7 mark at 141. Graham is 29-12 at 165 while sophomore Hunter Feraco is 22-13 at 197. Sophomore Greg Gogonas has been nationally ranked during the year at 133 and is 16-13 while senior Tim Day is 15-13 at 285.
Last year, the Vikings nailed down their first NCAA Division III national tournament participant since 2006 when George Gogonas, Greg's brother, qualified as an at-large qualifier at 125.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago Maroons bring two seniors, five sophomores, and three freshmen to the Great Lakes Regional. Best records are Ryan Hatten, 16-7 at 285 lbs. and Jim Layton, 19-5 at 157 and 165 lbs. Jake Schramm at 125 lbs., Layton at 157 lbs., Jeff Tyburski at 197 lbs., and Hatten, all won University Athletic Association individual titles at New York University three weeks ago
No.6-ranked Concordia-Moorhead enters the regional poised for another record-setting performance. The Cobbers, who have the highest national ranking in school history, will be looking to break last year's program record of four national qualifiers and hoping to make a run at the team title.
The Cobbers head into the regional meet with six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of the nation - the most in program history.
Defending national champion Phil Moenkedick has been ranked No.1 all year long at 184. Moenkedick is currently 27-1 on the season and has won 25 straight matches after losing to Kevin Steinhaus of the University of Minnesota in the opening invite of the season. Steinhaus is currently ranked No. 8 in Division I and is 28-8 on the year.
Concordia also features two returning senior All-Americans. Justin Berns is ranked No.6 at 157. He is currently 23-3 on the year and has won 11 straight matches and 19 of his last 20.
Ross Dankers is 20-6 at 174 and is one of five Cobber wrestlers that have 20 wins on the year. Dankers is ranked fifth in the nation after finishing eighth at the national meet last year.
The other Cobber wrestlers ranked in the top 10 include Ben Presler, Daron Hohbein and Tom Bouressa. Presler is 17-11 and ranked No.6 at 125. He has won nine of his last 10 matches. Hohbein is ranked 10th at 133 and is 11-4. Bouressa is 20-4 and ranked No.10 at 285. He has won 16 of his last 17 matches with his only loss coming to John Helgerson of Wartburg who finished second in the NCAA national meet last season, is currently the No.1 ranked wrestler in the nation and is 35-4 on the year.
Concordia Wis. has a 4-9 dual meet record heading into the regional. Top records for CUW include senior Josh Nord's 16-10 mark at 165 and Marcus Lubner's 14-12 season at 133. Lubner and Alex Silva (12-12) won their respective weight classes at the NWA Tournament.
Elmhurst, ranked 23rd in the NWCA poll, enters the regional fresh off of winning its fourth College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championship in school history.
Senior Mark Corsello anchors the Bluejay squad. A three-time national qualifier and two-time All-American, Corsello is currently unbeaten (24-0) and ranked second in the nation at 285.
Sophomore Joe Rau carries a 24-2 record into the regional at 184. Sophomore Ryan Earley captured the CCIW Championship at 149 and brings a 19-5 record into the regional.
Senior Frank Savegnago carries a 19-4 record at 174. Tom Laskowske (125), Jake Denhof (133), Larry Baca (141), and Mike Grice (157) have all won over 15 matches this season.
Knox is looking better than it has in previous years with a well-rounded group of wrestlers. The Prairie Fire is led by senior Edel Vaca (133), junior James Wagner (Hwt) and freshman Eric Steingruber. Vaca placed second at both the Knox Invitational and the NWA Tournament, and third at Spartan Mat Classic. Wagner placed third at the NWA Tournament as the No. 2 seed. Steingruber is a savvy wrestler who placed first in the 149-pund weight class at the NWA Tournament.
Maranatha Baptist Bible College
The Crusaders are a young squad dominated by freshmen. Josiah Brendemuehl (165) and Ricky Warren (141) have seen the most success this season.
MSOE is led by senior Virgil Pope (30-10) who wrestles at the 157-pound weight class and junior Jake Narveson (35-9) at 149 pounds. Pope placed third at the Great Lakes Regional Tournament in 2009, fourth in 2010 and fifth in 2008. Narveson is coming off a championship at last week's Northern Wrestling Association Conference Tournament in Mequon, Wis. Also picking up titles at that event were sophomore Steve Nguyen (16-17) who won at 285 pounds and sophomore Caleb Staub (16-18) who took the top spot at 184 pounds.
Seniors Sam Deligio (16-21) and Dominick Deligio (23-17) will compete at 125 and 133 pounds, respectively. Sophomore Josh Wengerter (20-12) will take to the mat in the 141-pound weight class while senior Samuel Bramstedt (20-9) will be at 165 pounds. Freshman Marcus Rokosh (5-8) is participating in the 174-pound weight class and freshman Kyle Perea (10-15) is at 174 pounds.
North Central is led by defending 133-pound champion Nathan Fitzenreider, who is the Cardinals' lone returning national qualifier. Fitzenreider is 29-2 and ranked second nationally this season, and is unbeaten against Division III competition. The Cardinals do have a pair of returning regional placers who both sat out last season. 174-pounder Greg Schroeder (24-8) placed fourth in `07 and third in both `08 and `09, while 184-pounder Billy Malone wrestled at heavyweight in `09 and placed fourth.
141-pounder Andrew Zobac (35-6) is ranked 10th nationally. He wrestled at 149 at last year's regional and did not place. 157-pounder Joby Bodi (23-9) competed in the 2010 regional at 165.
A young Pacific squad faces tough NJCAA and NAIA competition throughout the season in the Pacific Northwest. The Boxers are led by senior Kody Kramer with a record of 17-13 at 157. Freshmen Bruce Balcita, Jared Bridgewater and Caleb Malychewski have been solid contributions for Pacific. Balcita has put together a record of 8-12 at 165, Malychewski has a 9-14 record at 174 and Bridgewater has an 8-10 record with five pins at 285.
Four of the Johnnies' 10 starters enter this weekend ranked individually. Senior Matt Baarson (20-3 record; Brooklyn Park, Minn. /Champlin Park) stayed at No. 1 at 165. He has won 12 of his last 13 matches, with his lone loss to Steven Monk from Division I North Dakota State in the North Country Open championship match Feb 5.
Senior Minga Batsukh (19-1 record; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia/St. Benedict's Prep, N.J.), the two-time defending national champion at 141, moved up one spot to No. 3 at 149 after defeating then-No. 3 Tony Valek from Augsburg Jan 28. At the North Country Open, Batsukh won his weight class with four technical falls and a major decision. He collected a total of 50 takedowns in his five matches, including a school-record in his 35-19 win in the opening round. The 17 takedowns broke the old record of 15 set by Scot Doboszenski during the 1992-93 season. He has won each of his last 11 matches, only two by straight decision (one pin, five technical falls, three major decisions). Batsukh is looking to earn his fourth national tournament appearance this weekend.
Junior Matt Pfarr (22-6 record; Le Sueur, Minn./Le Sueur-Henderson) stayed at No. 4 and has won nine of his last 10 matches, as well as 15 of his last 17.
Junior Dustin Baxter (19-5 record; Fairbanks, Alaska/West Valley) held steady at No. 7 at 184. A 2008-09 All-American at 184 (seventh overall), Baxter missed all of last season due to a knee injury suffered during the 2009 football season.
Wheaton College (Ill.)
The Wheaton College Thunder wrestling team is led by head coach Jim Gruenwald. Now in his second season at Wheaton, Gruenwald is a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team and previously served as an assistant coach for U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Michigan.
This year's Wheaton squad is led by senior Justin Marble at 184. Marble has a 34-11 record and has placed in the top three at five different tournaments this season, including second place at the Pete Willson-Wheaton Invitational and the CCIW Championships. Junior Matt Cordell is second on the team in victories with 10 at 157.