SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — For the ninth straight year, the Augsburg College wrestling team claimed the championship at the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional, finishing with a 28-point margin of victory on Saturday at Lakeland College.
The Auggies, ranked No. 3 in the latest Division III national poll, will send five individuals — three weight-class champions, a runner-up and a “true-second” finisher — to the upcoming NCAA Division III National Championships, to be held March 11-12 in La Crosse, Wis.
Augsburg finished with 153.5 points, as the only school with all 10 of its wrestlers finishing in the top six places in their weight classes in the competitive region. The Auggies finished 28 points ahead of second-place St. John’s (125.5) and 29 ahead of third-place Concordia-Moorhead (124.0).
Augsburg has won each of the Great Lakes Regional titles since joining the region in 2003. The Auggies have won a Division III-record 11 national championships in the last 20 seasons, while also earning a trophy (finishing in the top four in NCAA national competition) 22 straight years, the longest active streak of any NCAA wrestling program, regardless of division.
Jared Massey (SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) dominated the 197-pound weight class at the regional, capturing the crown with two first-period pins in his opening matches and major-decision wins in the semifinals and finals, including an 11-2 win in the championship match over Tony Willaert of St. John’s.
Massey, the 2009 national champion at 197 and a third-place finisher last year, is now 17-1 on the season and will compete in his third national tournament. In his three seasons at Augsburg, Massey is now 75-3, including a 17-1 record this season. Of his 75 wins at Augsburg, 46 (61.3 percent) are “bonus-point” decisions — major decisions, technical falls or pins. Including his 5-2 record at Division I Wisconsin in 2003-04, Massey is now 80-5 as a collegiate wrestler.
Zach Molitor (SR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS), also a two-time Augsburg All-American, will compete in his third national tournament following his dominant title at 174 pounds. Molitor recorded three first-period pins leading up to the championship match, which he won 4-3 over Mathew Pfarr of St. John’s.
Molitor is now 25-3 on the season with 13 pins. He finished third nationally last season at 174, while finishing sixth in 2009. He is now 88-17 in his three seasons at Augsburg and 106-30 in his collegiate career.
After competing in the national tournament the last two seasons at 165, Orlando Ponce (SR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) will compete this year at 157, after scoring the weight-class title at the regional. Ponce opened with a 16-1, technical-fall win, followed by a major-decision win en route to the title, which he won 8-3 over Justin Berns of Concordia-Moorhead.
Last year’s national runner-up at 165, Ponce is now 31-5 on the season and 87-29 in his three seasons at Augsburg. He has won 14 straight matches, including all 11 (with two pins, three major decisions and a technical fall) since moving to 157.
Tony Valek (JR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West HS) will also compete at the national tournament for the third time, after finishing second at the regional at 149 pounds. He opened the regional with two first-period pins, but was edged 5-2 in the finals.
Last year’s national runner-up at 149, Valek is now 34-5 on the season with 16 pins. He is now 99-23 in his three seasons at Augsburg.
Chad Johnson (FY, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS) will compete at the national tournament for the first time, after rallying to score a “true-second” finish at heavyweight. After falling 4-2 in the semifinals, Johnson claimed two wins in wrestlebacks to secure third place, then scored a 5-2 win over Tom Bouressa of Concordia-Moorhead in the “true-second” match to clinch the national tournament berth. Johnson is now 29-9 on the season, having won 19 of his last 21 matches.
Four Auggies finished fifth in their weight classes – Josh Roberts (SO, Grand Forks, N.D./Central HS) at 125, Boyd Suparat (SO, North Branch, Minn.) at 133, Brandon Bahr (JR, Bemidji, Minn.) at 165 and Brad Baus (JR, Mukwonago, Wis.) at 184. WIll Keeter (FY, Twin Falls, Idaho) finished sixth at 141.
2011 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional
Team Standings — 1. Augsburg (Minn.) 153.5; 2. St. John’s (Minn.) 125.5; 3. Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) 124.0; 4. North Central (Ill.) 90.0; 5. Elmhurst (Ill.) 85.0; 6. St. Olaf (Minn.) 71.5; 7. Augustana (Ill.) 54.0; 8. Chicago (Ill.) 42.5; 9. Lakeland (Wis.) 33.0; 10. Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.) 28.5; 11. Pacific (Ore.) 19.0; 12. Wheaton (Ill.) 16.0; 13. Concordia-Wisconsin 15.5; 14. Knox (Ill.) 14.5; 15. Maranatha Baptist (Wis.) 0.5.