Auggies back in top spot in national rankings

MINNEAPOLIS — The 11-time national champion Augsburg College wrestling team has returned to the No. 1 spot in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national rankings, and will be the top-ranked team in this weekend’s NWCA/Cliff Keen Division III National Duals, presented by Hibiclens and The Marines, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Augsburg will attempt to become the first school to win three straight titles in the 10-year history of the NWCA Division III National Duals. Action begins on Saturday at 9 a.m., as Augsburg faces No. 29-ranked Luther (Iowa), and will face either No. 10-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point or No. 12-ranked Cornell (Iowa) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Action will continue both Saturday and Sunday at the UNI-Dome, with the Division III championship match slated for Sunday at 3 p.m.

All 16 teams in the Division III field are ranked in the top 30 in the latest Division III national poll, with the top seven ranked teams all represented in the field.

Since the NWCA began the Division III National Duals in 2002, the trophy has rested at either Augsburg or Wartburg (Iowa). Augsburg has won the title five times (2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), while Wartburg has won the crown four times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008).

Augsburg is 32-4 in NWCA Division III National Duals competition since 2002. Augsburg also appeared in five NWCA National Duals competitions prior to the 2002 season, when the defending Division III national champion was invited to compete with Division I squads. Augsburg is 37-13 all-time in NWCA National Duals competition. In its 36 Division III National Duals meets, Augsburg has outscored its competition by a 1,109-336 margin, an average score of 30.8 to 9.3.

After winning its 11th NCAA Division III national title last March, the Auggies opened the 2010-11 campaign in the top spot in the NWCA Brute/Adidas Division III national rankings. But after a 25-6 loss to Augustana (S.D.) on Nov. 24, the Auggies slipped to the No. 6 spot in the rankings in the third and fourth polls of the season.

However, with the return to the Auggie lineup of three All-Americans who will compete in the second semester — 165-pounder Orlando Ponce (SR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS), 174-pounder Zach Molitor (SR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS) and 197-pounder Jared Massey(SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) — and an outstanding performance at the Florida Citrus Open on Dec. 29-30, the Auggies have returned to the top spot in the national polls.

Eight individuals are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes, including three wrestlers at No. 2 — 149-pounder Tony Valek (JR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West), Ponce at 165 and Molitor at 174. Massey is ranked No. 3 at 197. Josh Roberts (SO, Grand Forks, N.D./Grand Forks Central HS) is ranked No. 5 at 125, Brad Baus (JR, Mukwonago, Wis.) is ranked No. 7 at 184, Cody Hansen (SO, Albert Lea, Minn.) is ranked No. 8 at 184 and Chad Johnson (FY, Ferryville, Wis./DeSoto HS) is ranked No. 8 at heavyweight.

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