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NCAA Wrestling: at North Country Open

Ochirbat Bayanjargal is one of the handful of Mongolians to wrestle at St. John's in recent years. | Photo by Evan Gruenes

The Mongolian national wrestling team is making a stop in Collegeville.

The Saint John’s Wrestling team, who just finished its season a week ago, will be hosting a wrestling clinic featuring the Mongolian national team this weekend and joining them is three-time national champion and SJU alumnus Minga Batsukh.

“It came together because of Minga,” SJU Wrestling Head Coach Brandon Novak said.

Batsukh had been working with the Mongolian national team as an interpreter and guide for its travels to the U.S., most notably for the 2014 Freestyle World Cup last weekend in Las Vegas.

“(Batsukh) wanted to show them Minnesota, and they wanted to see some of his history and background.”

The clinic is geared towards high school and college wrestlers.

The wrestling connection between SJU and Mongolia is not a new one. Mongolian junior Ochirbat Bayanjargal came to St. John’s because of his connection with other Mongolian wrestlers. SJU alumnus Mogie Baatar and Batsukh were large influences on his decision to become a Johnnie.

“Mogie and Minga were some of the reasons I came to Saint John’s,” Bayanjargal said. “They helped me out and encouraged me to come (here).”

One benefit to having international wrestlers come as guest clinicians is that they can teach a different style of wrestling.

“They do things a little differently than Americans,” Bayanjargal said. “Especially their legs, they use them to score.”

The Mongolian team holds a very impressive roster. Naranbaatar Bayaraa (121 pounds) is a three-time Olympian who has placed multiple times at the World Championships and Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (145 pounds) placed third at the 2013 world championships. The team is coached by Battulga Byambajav, a two-time coach of the year award winner.

Also impressive is how quickly the event all came together.

“We completely pulled it together about a week and a half ago,” Novak said.

“Minga and I were talking about the world cup, and he asked if we would be able to run a camp,” said St. John’s Assistant Coach Tony Willaert, who was a teammate of Batsukh in college.

Novak was excited for the chance to have world-class athletes on campus at St. John’s.

“In the U.S., they go to a specific building in Colorado Springs to train,” Novak said. “We’re going to have an Olympic team right on campus.”

This is not the first time SJU wrestling has brought in Olympic-level clinicians to its camps. Over the summer, gold medalist and reputed coach Dan Gable as well as national champions Andrew Howe and David Taylor were guest clinicians for the high school camp that SJU runs annually.

Novak was also eager to have Batsukh back at his alma mater.

“I get goosebumps thinking about it still,” Novak said. “I’m excited to have him back on campus, and to get him to work with our current team. He’s one of the most decorated athletes to come through Saint John’s—whenever you can surround your current team with these types of guys, you can give them a better idea of where they want to get to.”

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