by TaLeiza Calloway
One of the first things Scott Wierschem will tell you up front is that he likes wrestling. The second is that he is St. John’s University’s wrestling team’s biggest fan.
His love for the team has nothing to do with the fact his nephew, Chad Henle, is a member. As a former champion wrestler himself, the Spicer resident admits to always having a love for the sport.
Wierschem’s nephew was one of five students who qualified for competition at the 2012 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship tournament this year in Wisconsin. Henle, a senior, advanced with teammates senior Dustin Baxter, junior Mitch Hagen, senior Matt Pfarr and junior Chris Stevermer.
Wierschem recently congratulated the athletes and their coach with lunch at the American Burger Bar and Grill in St. Joseph.
“I’m proud of them,” Wierschem said. “I’m their biggest fan.”
The group chatted over glasses of water as they waited to order. To help pass the time, the group shared stories of memorable matches and tough pins. All agree the road leading to nationals is a focused one but making it to that point is always the goal.
Two of the five wrestlers who competed at nationals placed. Pfarr placed fourth in the 174-pound weight class and Baxter placed second in his weight class of 197.
“It doesn’t mean I’m the best wrestler in the world,” Pfarr said, “but on that day, I was.”
Baxter said he has qualifed for nationals for the last four years. The St. John’s University wrestling team has advanced to nationals more than 20 times in 23 years, according to the school’s athletics website.
Head wrestling coach Brandon Novak couldn’t be prouder of the team and their accomplishments. It means a lot to make it to the national level as it means you are among the best and qualify to wrestle the best in the country. SJU was up against 62 teams and placed 11th in the overall tournament.
“What’s so amazing is they do this without scholarships . . . ,” Novak said. “This is something they add to their (plate). It’s not easy.”
Novak explained the season runs from about October through March. Unlike Division I schools, it’s not a year-round program for SJU which shows their dedication to the sport during those five months.
Pfarr, Hagen and Henle were also named 2011-2012 All-American Scholars by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Requirements for that honor include a G.P.A. of 3.2.
Pfarr and Baxter were named All-American athletes during the championship. That means they placed in the top eight at the tournmanet. Baxter has recieved the All-America honor three times in his collegiate career. This is the second consecutive time for Pfarr.