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Lakeland College senior Paul Hartt became the second wrestler in the school's history to earn a trip to nationals Saturday, winning the 197-pound title at the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional in Collegeville, Minn.
Hartt, the regional's No. 1 seed and the No. 3 rated wrestler nationally at 197, scored a 14-4 major decision over Elmhurst's Bernie Vazquez in his opening match, pinned James Dooley of Chicago in 2:55 in the quarterfinals, pinned No. 5 seed Vincent Sapienza of North Central in 1:25 in the semifinals and scored an 8-2 win over second-seeded Anthony Neumann of Concordia-Moorehead in the championship.
Hartt advances to the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships set for March 7-8 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The first- and second-place finishers in each weight class advance to the national meet, along with three at-large selections chosen by the regional coaches at the meet's conclusion.
"I see it as a sense of relief," Hartt said. "It's not this weekend but next weekend (nationals) that really matters. My goal all season has been to finish as an all-American. This is the first step in getting there.
"I approached every match today as if it was my last match. If I had not wrestled the way I did today, I would be done. It just worked out well."
Lakeland head coach Pete Rogers said Hartt appears to have all his abilities peaking at the right time.
"I'm so excited for Paul because he wrestled phenomenal," Rogers said. "He looked like a national-caliber wrestler today, and that was exciting to see. This tournament he wrestled better than he has all year. Those were some good guys he wrestled, and they didn't stay in the match, which was good to see. He didn't just beat them, he beat them bad."
Lakeland's only other national qualifier came in 2002 when Lee Kadinger placed sixth at 165 pounds.
Junior Jonas Flok, the sixth seed at 157, had a big day as he went 4-1 to win third place. After winning his opener, Flok upset third-seeded Matt Baarson of St. John's, 7-4, in the quarterfinals. After losing to second-seeded Beau Hansen of Augsburg, 8-4, in the semifinals, Flok scored a major decision and a pin to claim third place.
"He was just wrestling great," Rogers said. "He beat a lot of good guys. If things could have worked out a little differently against the kid from Augsburg, he would have been right there."
Sophomore Adam Sutter, rated No. 7 in the nation at 285, had a tough day. After winning his opener, Sutter was upset in the quarterfinals by No. 7 seed Ryan Hatten of Chicago, 3-1 in overtime. He went 3-1 the remainder of the day, pinning John Linn of St. John's in the fifth-place match. He was named an alternate to nationals at 285.
"Wrestling is rough, because you win, but you never win," Rogers said. "Sutter wrestled the worst that he has all year, and I feel bad for him because, like all these guys, he put in a lot time. To have your only bad day of the year at regionals is very frustrating for him and for me."
Junior David Copp, the No. 7 seed, also won fifth place as he went 3-2 at 125. After winning his opener, Copp was pinned in 5:30 by the No. 2 seed, Seth Flodeau of Augsburg, in the quarterfinals. He scored two more wins, including a 7-3 decision over fifth-seeded George Gogonas of Augustana in the fifth-place match.
Juniors Kory Thiel (141) and Ben Chapman (149) were both seeded No. 4 in their weight classes, but each finished 3-3 on the day, both falling in fifth-place matches.
Other Lakeland results included: sophomore Jacob Frias finishing 1-2 at 165, freshman Levi Hackler finishing 1-2 at 174, junior Sam Copp finishing 0-2 at 133 and junior James Sylvanus finishing 0-2 at 184.
Lakeland finished sixth in the 15-team regional with 82.5 points.