Auggies put 4 in title matches

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Four Augsburg College wrestlers will compete for individual national titles later tonight, after each claimed semifinal wins at the NCAA Division III National Championships on Saturday morning at the La Crosse Center.

Defending national champion Augsburg remains in second place after the third session of the national tournament with 82.5 points, trailing perennial rival Wartburg (Iowa), which has 109 points. Wisconsin-La Crosse is third with 72.5 points, while Ithaca (N.Y.) is fourth with 68.5 and Coe (Iowa) is fifth with 63. St. John’s is sixth with 60.5 points and Concordia-Moorhead is seventh with 48 points.

Augsburg has the most finalists – four – of any school in the field. Wartburg has three finalists, while Wisconsin-La Crosse, Ithaca and Coe have two each. St. John’s and Concordia both have one finalist.

In a rematch of last year’s national title match at 149 pounds, Augsburg’s Tony Valek (JR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West) scored a stunning pin over defending national champion Isaac Dukes of Case Western Reserve (Ohio) to advance to the championship bout for the second straight year.

The pin, with 14 seconds left in the third period, capped a dramatic final minute of the bout. Valek took a 2-1 lead with a reversal with 57 seconds to go, but Dukes countered with a reversal of his own with 36 seconds left. As Valek was maneuvering for another reversal, he was able to put Dukes on his back and score the dramatic pin – his third straight win by pin in the national tournament.

Now 37-5 on the season with 19 pins and 102-23 on his career, Valek will face Minga Batsukh of St. John’s in the national title match later tonight.

There was another dramatic finish in the 197-pound semifinals, as Augsburg’sJared Massey (SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) rallied for an 11-9, overtime victory over Bill Schindel of Mount Union (Ohio). Massey, the 197-pound national champion in 2009 and third-place finisher last year, will face Byron Tate of Wartburg in the national title match tonight.

In the semifinals, Massey surrendered a three-point near-fall early in the third period to fall behind 5-2, but rallied in a back-and-forth struggle to cut the lead to 9-7 in the final seconds. Massey tied the match at 9-9 with a takedown at the final buzzer of regulation, then claimed the match-winning takedown with 33 seconds left in the first one-minute, sudden-victory overtime.

Massey is now 20-1 on the season and 79-3 in his three All-American seasons at Augsburg. Massey wrestled at Division I Wisconsin in the 2003-04 season, but spent four seasons away from college wrestling before transferring to Augsburg in the 2008-09 season. At age 26, Massey is one of the oldest wrestlers in the competition and is 84-5 in his collegiate career.

Orlando Ponce (JR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) moved into a national championship match for the second straight year, this time at 157 pounds, after a dramatic 3-1 win over Wartburg’s Carrington Banks in the semifinals. Tied at 1-1, Ponce scored the match-winning takedown with 15 seconds left in the third period.

Ponce, last year’s national runner-up at 165, moved to 157 in early February, and is now 34-5 on the season and 90-29 in his career. Ponce has won 17 matches in a row leading up to the national title match against Dan Twito of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.) – including all 14 matches since moving to 157.

Three-time All-American Zach Molitor (SR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS) moved into his first national championship match at 174 pounds, after scoring a 4-1 win over defending national champion Michael Schmitz of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the semifinals – his first win in three matches against Schmitz this season. Molitor scored a takedown with 1:38 left in the first period and opened the second period with an escape, while building 1:40 of riding time to score the win.

Molitor is now 28-3 on the season and 91-17 in his three seasons at Augsburg, which include a sixth-place national finish in 2009 and third-place finish last year. Including his initial collegiate season at North Dakota State in 2005-06, Molitor is now 109-30 in his collegiate career.

Heavyweight Chad Johnson (FY, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS), competing in his first national tournament, finished seventh in the field for his first All-American finish. Johnson finished his first Auggie campaign at 32-11.

In the consolation semifinals, Johnson suffered a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Derick Hesson of Mount Union (Ohio), but rallied back with a 7-3 win over Judson Connell of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.) in the seventh-place match. Johnson led 4-3 after the second period, then scored a three-point near-fall and 1:15 of riding time to secure the win.

This is the 23rd straight year that Augsburg has claimed five or more All-Americans in NCAA Division III competition. Augsburg has had at least one All-American in national competition every year since 1977 – now 35 straight years.

Among other Minnesota schools, St. John’s had four placewinners on Saturday afternoon – third-place Dustin Baxter at 184, fourth-place Matt Baarson at 165, seventh-place Chad Henle at 133 and seventh-place Mathew Pfarr at 174. Batsukh will face Valek in the 149-pound title match tonight.

Concordia had two placewinners on Saturday afternoon, with defending national champion Moenkedick in the 184-pound title match tonight. Tom Bouressa finished fourth at heavyweight, while Justin Berns placed fifth at 157. St. Olaf had two All-Americans on Saturday – third-place Ryan Timmerman at 141 and eighth-place Josef Waples at 165.

At La Crosse Center, La Crosse, Wis.

Team scores after Saturday’s Third Round:
1. Wartburg (Iowa) 109; 2. Augsburg (Minn.) 82.5; 3. Wisconsin-La Crosse 72.5; 4. Ithaca (N.Y.) 68.5; 5. Coe (Iowa) 63; 6. St. John’s (Minn.) 60.5; 7. Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) 48; 8. Mount Union (Ohio) 37; 9. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.) 33; 10. Elmhurst (Ill.) 32. Other Minnesota school: 16. St. Olaf 22.

Saturday’s Third-Round Results — Minnesota College Wrestlers:
133 –
 Adam Sheley (Wisconsin-La Crosse) dec. Chad Henle (St. John’s) 6-3. Seventh-place match: Henle dec. Corey Brown (Thiel) 6-3.
141 – Ryan Timmerman (St. Olaf) pinned Kevin Bokoski (Luther) 3:37; Timmerman dec. Chris Albright (York) 12-7. Third-place match: Timmerman dec. Kevin Donahue (Cornell) 7-4.
149 — Tony Valek (Augsburg) pinned Issac Dukes (Case Western Reserve) 6:46; Minga Batsukh (St. John’s) dec. Blaine Woszczak (Ithaca) 6-5. Championship match: Valek vs. Batsukh.
157 – Orlando Ponce (Augsburg) dec. Carrington Banks (Wartburg) 3-1; Dan Twito (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) dec. Justin Berns (Concordia) 2-1 (OT-TB1); Elias Larson (Trine) pinned Berns 2:03. Fifth-place match:Berns maj. dec. Erik Hanson (Loras) 10-1. Championship match: Ponce vs. Twito.
165 – Nick LeClere (Coe) dec. Matt Baarson (St. John’s) 5-4; Justin Bonitatis (College of New Jersey) dec. Josef Waples (St. Olaf) 11-5; Baarson dec. James Myers (Olivet) 3-0. Seventh-place match: Vincent Renaut (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) dec. Waples 8-5. Third-place match: Luke Miller (Ohio Northern) dec. Baarson 1-0.
174 — Zach Molitor (Augsburg) dec. Michael Schmitz (Wis.-La Crosse) 4-1; Kyle Kwiat (Ohio Northern) dec. Mathew Pfarr (St. John’s) 4-2. Seventh-place match: Pfarr dec. Frank Savegnago (Elmhurst) 9-2. Championship match: Molitor vs. Bradley Banks (Wartburg).
184 — Phil Moenkedick (Concordia) dec. Seth Rehn (Coe) 8-5; Dustin Baxter (St. John’s) dec. Greg Rhoads (Wabash) 6-2; Baxter dec. Mike Denver (College of New Jersey) 6-2. Third-place match: Baxter dec. Alex Martocello (York) 3-2. Championship match: Moenkedick vs. Ben Engelland (Wisconsin-Stevens Point).
197 — Jared Massey (Augsburg) dec. Bill Schindel (Mount Union) 11-9 (OT-SV1). Championship match: Massey vs. Byron Tate (Wartburg).
HWT – Mark Corsello (Elmhurst) dec. Tom Bouressa (Concordia) 4-0; Derek Hesson (Mount Union) dec. Chad Johnson (Augsburg) 5-3; Bouressa dec. Hesson 3-2. Third-place match: Brock Glotfelty (McDaniel) dec. Bouressa 4-3. Seventh-place match: Johnson dec. Judson Connell (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) 7-3.