MINNEAPOLIS — The Augsburg College wrestling team shot up five spots to the No. 2 position in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national rankings, it was announced on Tuesday.
Augsburg, which had been ranked No. 7 in the first half of the season, moved up to the No. 2 position behind defending national champion Wartburg (Iowa). Last weekend, the Auggies finished ahead of then-No. 5 Cornell (Iowa) and then-No. 6 St. John’s at the Citrus Invitational, a tournament that featured five teams ranked in the top 30 in the Division III national rankings.
Augsburg will take its No. 2 national rankings into the NWCA Division III National Duals, to be held this Saturday and Sunday (1/7-8) at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. The Auggies are seeded No. 2 in the 16-team Division III bracket and will face Rhode Island College in its opening match on Saturday at 11 a.m.
In the 10-year history of the NWCA Division III National Duals, Augsburg has won the event five times (2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), placed second three times (2003, 2004, 2006) and placed third twice (2008, 2011). Augsburg is 35-5 in its history at the Division III National Duals, and 40-14 all-time in National Duals events (prior to 2002, the defending Division III national titlist was among championship teams invited to compete in the Division I National Duals).
This year’s Division III National Duals bracket includes 15 teams ranked in the top 30 nationally, including seven of the top 10 teams — No. 1 Wartburg, No. 2 Augsburg, No. 3 Ithaca (N.Y.), No. 4 Wisconsin-La Crosse, No. 7 St. John’s, No. 9 Elmhurst (Ill.) and No. 10 Olivet (Mich.).
Six Auggies are ranked in the top 10 nationally in their individual weight classes, including two No. 1-ranked wrestlers — 149-pounder Tony Valek (SR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West) and heavyweight Chad Johnson (SO, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS). Orlando Ponce (SR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) is ranked No. 2 at 165 pounds. Will Keeter (SO, Twin Falls, Idaho) is ranked No. 5 at 141, as is Brad Baus (SR, Mukwonago, Wis.) at 197. Tom Kuehn (FY, Fargo, N.D./West Fargo HS) is ranked No. 10 at 133.
A two-time national tournament runner-up and three-time national tournament qualifier, Valek has put together a strong campaign at 149 pounds, currently standing unbeaten at 18-0. Of his 18 wins, 16 have been bonus-point victories (pins, technical falls, major decisions). He has won titles at all four tournaments he has competed in this year — the Auggie-Brute-Adidas Open on Jan. 19, the Minnesota State Moorhead Dragon Open on Dec. 3, the St. Cloud State Husky Open on Dec. 10 and the Citrus Invitational Dec. 29-30.
A seventh-place national finisher last season, Johnson has a 16-1 record, with his lone loss coming to the top-ranked wrestler in Division II, Jake Kahnke of St. Cloud State, in the finals of the St. Cloud State Husky Open. At the Citrus Invitational, Johnson scored a first-period pin and two major-decision wins en route to the individual title.
A two-time national tournament runner-up and three-time national tournament qualifier, Ponce returned to the Augsburg lineup at the Citrus Invitational to begin his final semester of collegiate wrestling. Ponce recorded three victories at the tournament, including two pins and a 13-7 win over Nick Schuler of St. John’s, ranked No. 8 nationally at the time.
Keeter has emerged as a strong 141-pounder in his second season as an Auggie, with a 12-1 record, including six bonus-point victories. At the Citrus Invitational, Keeter outscored his opponents by a 55-3 margin in five victories, including a technical fall and two major decisions. He scored a 2-0 win over No. 9-ranked Josh Malave of Mount Union (Ohio) in the finals.
Baus has a 12-4 record so far this season at 197 pounds, including seven pins, a major decision and technical fall. Baus won his weight class title at the Minnesota State Moorhead Dragon Open, while finishing third at the Auggie-Brute-Adidas Open, fourth at the St. Cloud State Husky Open and sixth at the Citrus Invitational.
In his first collegiate season, Kuehn has an 11-5 record, including four pins, three technical falls and two major decisions. He placed third at the Citrus Invitational with a 6-1 record, bouncing back from a semifinal loss with four straight wins in the wrestlebacks. He placed fourth at both the Auggie-Brute-Adidas Open and the Minnesota State Moorhead Dragon Open.