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After seeing nine qualify at regionals, RCTC has sights on third straight national title

The Yellowjackets have a great shot to win their third straight NJCAA non-scholarship national championship

Rochester Community and Technical College RCTC logo
Rochester Community and Technical College
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The Rochester Community and Technical College wrestling team’s quest for a third consecutive NJCAA non-scholarship national championship took a big step forward.

The Yellowjackets advanced nine grapplers to the NJCAA Wrestling National Championships after they all placed in the top two in their respective weight class at the NJCAA Region XIII North Plains District Wrestling Tournament on Sunday, Feb. 20 at Willmar’s Ridgewater College.

First-year coach Andy Hackenmueller was hoping to walk away with 10 qualifiers, but he will surely take nine and a team championship.

“I can’t complain a whole lot,” Hackenmueller said with a laugh. “Overall, it was a pretty good day.”

Rocco Visci (125-pounds), Chatfield High School graduate Cael Bartels (133), Medford High School’s Willie VonRuden (157), Walker Ingham (174), Antonio Davis (184) and Blooming Prairie High School graduate Colton Krell (197) all won championships in their respective weight class, while Zach Wells (165) and Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Armani Tucker (heavyweight) qualified with second place finishes.

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Colton Krell was the first wrestler from Blooming Prairie High School to win a state title and was all set to wrestle at North Dakota State but has found his home at RCTC

After a year that saw him pin every one of his Minnesota College Athletic Conference foes, Ingham was named the MCAC Wrestler of the Year. Hackenmueller was honored with the MCAC Coach of the Year as the Yellowjackets ran away with the team title with 119 points. Itasca followed with 86.5.

Now RCTC heads to the NJCAA Wrestling National Championships on March 4-5 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa in hope of collecting their third straight title.

“We’re definitely looking at repeating,” Hackenmueller said. “That has been our expectation since day one of this year.”

The reason Hackenmueller and RCTC feel so confident is partly due to the ‘Big three’ of Dobrecky, VonRuden and Ingham.

“They can really make a run at the title,” Hackenmueller said. “Those three guys are, they're just all about work. When they come in, they're ready to go every day. Just they're the guys that don't need a lot of push. They come in putting their heads to the grindstone and they're getting after it. They've been a fun group of three to coach for sure.”

The trio has set the tone for the rest of the team on and off the mat, having an affect on the younger wrestlers like Visci and Wells.

They're definitely rubbing off on the rest of the room here too, which is cool to see,” Hackenmueller said. Our 25 pounder Rocco Visci has been training with Parker. Zach Wells — another freshman at 65 — that he works with Walker pretty much every day. He's putting together a nice little freshman campaign. It's kind of the whole team making a run at it here. So it's fun.”

But that's what makes this group so unique.

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They have great chemistry with most living together in a pair of apartment buildings on the edge of campus. They have become each other’s second family, knowing how and when to push each other to be better.

“For the last seven, eight months they've been with each other for the most part, darn near every day,” Hackenmueller said. “We’re a pretty tight group.”

Put it all together and the Yellowjackets seem prime to bring another trophy back home to Rochester.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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