The J-Club | Hall of honor of the J-Club
By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Writer/Video Producer
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – During the celebration following Minga Batsukh’s first national championship in 2009, a challenge was issued in front of standout wrestler Johnnie.
“I remember everyone was clapping and shouting,” Batsukh recalled. “They were like, ‘You’re a national champion! You’re a national champion!’ But (Current SJU Head Coach) Kevin Schiltz, who was an assistant coach for us at the time, told me it was going to be a lot harder to do it a second time. Everyone was going to shoot me.
“It really motivated me. It made me want to keep improving and working even harder. I wanted to come back and do it again.”
In fact, Batsukh has come back to do it twice – after winning his first NCAA Division III national title at 141 pounds with another as a junior in 2010, then capping his career by winning the national championship at 149 pounds in as a senior in 2011.
This makes him the only three-time national champion in school history.
“A St. Cloud State guy he competed with said it best,” recalls brandon novak ’01, then head wrestling coach at SJU. “If Minga didn’t want you to do something on the mat, you wouldn’t. He was in control of his games all the time. He was so good.”
The road from Batsukh to SJU started in the mountains of Western Mongolia. His family was nomadic, raising cows and sheep.
“It was really a day-to-day lifestyle,” he said. “You worked hard all day just to put food on the table.”
When he was nine, the family moved to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and his passion for wrestling grew even stronger.
“Growing up with two older brothers, I’ve always loved wrestling,” Batsukh said. “I had an uncle who had wrestled internationally and was successful. He was a big influence on me. I wanted to be like him.”
In 2003, the Mongolian national team participated in the freestyle world championships in Madison Square Garden in New York. While there, they trained at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ, a school that is part of the Benedictine Volunteer Corps, through which SJU graduates work as instructors.
Michael DiPiano, the school’s head coach, made contacts that led to Batsukh and fellow wrestler Mogi Baatar ’10 arriving in Newark the following year.
“The coach there developed a relationship with the (Mongolian) national team coaches and that led them to hear about me,” Batsukh said. “You can imagine what a culture shock that was. Coming to the United States was a 180 degree change from the life I was used to. It was crazy. Absolutely crazy. But it was such a beautiful opportunity.
“It was my decision to make. My parents told me the choice was mine. And I wanted to give it a chance.”
Two years later, the Johnnies had three wrestlers competing at the Division III national meet being held at nearby New Jersey College, and Novak was lucky enough to stop by St. Benedict’s Prep to check on both Batsukh and Baatar.
By the following fall, both were enrolled in Collegeville.
“The move to college wrestling was an adjustment for both of them, but they each worked really hard and picked it up,” Novak said.
This was evident by the fact that both wrestlers qualified for the national meet four times during their time at SJU, including Batsukh’s three national titles.
“I used to sit in the wrestling room in Saint John’s and meditate, talk with the legends who came before me,” Batsukh said. “I was trying to visualize everything I wanted to accomplish.
“Coach Novak was everything to my success. He was there for me every step of the way.”
After graduating from SJU, Batsukh returned to Mongolia and continued to wrestle for a while, narrowly missing out on the final spot at the 2012 Summer Olympics by luck of the draw in the qualifying tournament. of Asian wrestling that year.
He pursued a career in the financial sector in Ulaanbaatar, but both he and Baatar remained involved in sports. They run a club for children aged 5 to 14 specializing in freestyle wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing.
“I do freestyle wrestling and train with the kids twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Batsukh said. “It’s fun to be able to do this and share what I know with them. I love this sport and I want to pass my skills on to the next generation.”
He said he looks back with gratitude for everyone who helped make his wrestling career such a success.
“I just want to thank everyone who sponsored me financially and welcomed me into their homes like I was family,” he said. “The DiPiano family (St. Benedict’s Prep), the Neuman family (friends and sponsors in New York), Lois Rogers (a sponsor during her college years), the Henle family (college), the Evenson family (college) and the Shellenberger family (college).
“I’m so grateful to all of them.”
Hall of Honor Class of 2022
The Class of 2022 of student-athletes, coaches and volunteers will be inducted into the Saint John’s University J-Club Hall of Honor at a ceremony scheduled for Homecoming Saturday – October 1 – at Guild Hall (Old Gym).
The dinner and induction ceremony begin at 5:15 p.m. Registration is $75 per person until September 25 ($100 per person after) and includes dinner and drinks. All proceeds go to the J-Club to support SJU athletics.
To register click here.
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Cyril Paul ’59
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Tim Schmitz ’78
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Br. Mark Kelly, BSF
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Troy Bigalke ’01
-SJU to induct 11 into the J-Club Hall of Honor on October 1