Molitor wins title, Auggies finish 2nd

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Claiming a top-four national tournament finish for the 23rd straight year, the Augsburg College wrestling team claimed an individual national titlist, three runners-up and five All-Americans, while finishing second as a team at the NCAA Division III National Championships on Saturday at the La Crosse Center.



Augsburg finished second in the team race with 88.5 points, with Wartburg (Iowa) claiming the team title with 117.0 points. Host Wisconsin-La Crosse was third with 76.5 points, while Ithaca (N.Y.) was fourth with 72.5 points and Coe (Iowa) was fifth with 67.0 points. St. John’s was sixth with 64.5 points, and Concordia-Moorhead was seventh with 52.0 points.

Augsburg, winners of 11 national titles in the last 21 seasons, finished second for the 10th time in school history (nine in Division III, once in NAIA). Augsburg has finished among the top four teams nationally in Division III competition every year since 1989 and in the top 20 nationally every year since 1971.

The Auggies’ 23-year top-four streak is the longest active streak among any NCAA wrestling program, regardless of division, and is 13 years ahead of the next-longest active streak. The 23-year streak is the second-longest overall streak in NCAA wrestling history, behind the 29 of Oklahoma State from 1928-59. Augsburg has placed in the top four in NCAA competition 25 times in school history – the most of any Division III program and the fifth-most of any NCAA wrestling program.

This is also 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.


Augsburg 174-pounder Zach Molitor (SR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS) closed his collegiate career with a dramatic pin of Wartburg’s Bradley Banks in the national title match – the lone pin among the 10 national-championship matches. Leading 4-1 after one period, Molitor fought off a Banks escape attempt, pushing Banks to his back for the match-ending pin in 3:20. The pin was Molitor’s second in his four victories at the national tournament.

A three-time All-American, Molitor reached the finals with 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 finished his senior season at 29-3 and 92-17 in his three seasons at Augsburg. He finished sixth nationally in 2009 and third in 2010. Including his initial collegiate season at North Dakota State in 2005-06, Molitor finished his collegiate career 110-30 in his collegiate career.


Augsburg’s Orlando Ponce (JR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) reached the national championship match for the second straight year, this time at 157 pounds, but was defeated in a heartbreaking overtime decision to Dan Twito of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.). Tied at 1-1 after regulation, the two battled through two one-minute overtime sessions and two tiebreaker sessions with just an escape each. In the third tiebreaker session, Twito escaped 15 seconds into the 30-second period, and in the fourth, Twito held on for 29 seconds before allowing an escape, giving him the victory.

Ponce reached the finals with 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. Last year’s national runner-up at 165, Ponce moved to 157 in early February, and finished 34-6 on the season and 90-30 in his career.


Jared Massey (SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) reached the 197-pound national title match for the second time in his Augsburg career, but suffered a 9-3 loss to Wartburg’s Byron Tate. Tate countered an early Massey lead with three takedowns and 2:50 of riding time.

The 2009 national champion and 2010 third-place finisher at 197, Massey finished his season at 20-2 and 79-4 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 was one of the oldest wrestlers in the competition and finished his collegiate career 84-6.

Massey reached the finals with a dramatic semifinal win, rallying for an 11-9, overtime victory over Bill Schindel of Mount Union (Ohio). 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.


Augsburg’s Tony Valek (JR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West) reached the national finals at 149 for the second straight year, but suffered a 7-4 defeat to Minga Batsukh of St. John’s, who earned his third national title en route to receiving the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler honors. Batsukh pulled away from a close match in the third period, building 1:50 of riding time to score the win.

Valek reached the title match with a win in a rematch of last year’s national-title bout, as he scored a stunning pin over defending national champion Isaac Dukes of Case Western Reserve (Ohio). 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.

Valek earned the tournament’s award for most pins in least time, with three pins in 11:30 in the tournament. He finished his junior season at 37-6 and is 102-24 in his 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 earlier on Saturday. 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.

Among other Minnesota schools, St. John’s had five placewinners – champion Batsukh at 149, 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.

Concordia had three placewinners on Saturday, with Phil Moenkedick repeating his national title at 184 pounds. Tom Bouressa finished fourth at heavyweight, while Justin Berns placed fifth at 157. St. Olaf, which finished 16th with 22.0 points, 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.

Final Results:
1. Wartburg (Iowa) 117.0; 2. Augsburg (Minn.) 88.5; 3. Wisconsin-La Crosse 76.5; 4. Ithaca (N.Y.) 72.5; 5. Coe (Iowa) 67.0; 6. St. John’s (Minn.) 64.5; 7. Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) 52.0; 8t. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.) 37.0; 8t. Mount Union (Ohio) 37.0; 10. Elmhurst (Ill.) 32.0. Other Minnesota school: 16. St. Olaf 22.0.

Saturday’s 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: Batsukh dec. Valek 7-4.
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: Twito dec. Ponce 3-3 (RT, OT-TB2).
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 pinned Bradley Banks (Wartburg) 3:20.
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 dec. Ben Engelland (Wisconsin-Stevens Point) 2-1.
197 — Jared Massey (Augsburg) dec. Bill Schindel (Mount Union) 11-9 (OT-SV1). Championship match: Byron Tate (Wartburg) dec. Massey 9-4.
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.