MINNEAPOLIS – Head coach Mark Matzek would like to eliminate the word “try” from the Augsburg College wrestling team’s vocabulary.
Don’t just “try” to improve one percent every day – actually do the improvement.
Don’t just “try” to extend streaks of top-four NCAA Division III national team finishes and having at least five Auggies earn All-American honors to 24 years each – do it.
And don’t just “try” to win the school’s 12th NCAA Division III national title – do it.
With a roster featuring seven returning starters, including three returning All-Americans, the “do-ing” begins now.
“The word I want to get out of our vocabulary is the word ‘try,’ “ said Matzek, entering his fourth season as Augsburg’s head coach. “To say that you’re going to ‘try’ to do something, basically gives you an easy way out for failure, because you can always say you tried your best. But if you say you’re going to do something, that puts a lot more ownership … on you and on the team.”
Last season, with just five wrestlers qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the Auggies finished second, with all five Auggies earning All-American honors. Streaks of finishing in the top four in NCAA national competition and having at least five All-Americans were both extended to 23 straight years, with the top-four finish streak the longest active streak among any NCAA wrestling program and the second-longest in NCAA wrestling history, regardless of division.
The goals of keeping those streaks alive, and exceeding them by winning a national championship, have become “par for the course” for the Augsburg wrestling program.
“That’s why they come to school here, is to have the high expectations,” Matzek said. “They choose to come here, and the spotlight’s on them. You can’t help but have high expectations.”
Seven returning starters
Augsburg returns seven starters to the mat this season, including three returning All-Americans – 149-pounder Tony Valek (SR, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West), 157-pounder Orlando Ponce (SR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) and heavyweight Chad Johnson (SO, Ferryville, Wis./DeSoto HS).
Valek earned national runner-up honors for the second straight season, finishing 37-6 while earning the national tournament’s award for most pins in least time, with three pins leading up to the national championship match. Valek is 102-24 on his career and is a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier. Matzek describes Valek as “the epitome of what an Augsburg wrestler is.”
Ponce, who plans to join the Auggies at the semester break for his final season, also earned national runner-up honors for the second straight season, with a 34-6 record. Also a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier, Ponce is 90-30 in his Auggie career.
Johnson had a strong debut season for the Auggies in 2010-11, finishing 32-11 with eight pins and earning a seventh-place finish at the national tournament. He had to rally to earn a spot in the national tournament, winning a “true-second” match at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, then had to rally again to earn All-America honors, following up a second-round loss with a major-decision victory in the wrestlebacks.
Four other Auggie starters return, led by Brad Baus (SR, Mukwonago, Wis.), who moves up from 184 to 197 pounds this season. A multi-year starter at 184, Baus finished 30-12 with 19 pins last year. Matzek said that the move up a weight class will be a benefit for a quick wrestler like Baus.
Brandon Bahr (SR, Bemidji, Minn.) emerged as the starter at 165 pounds last season, finishing 33-15 with a single-season school-record 25 pins. Boyd Suparat (JR, North Branch, Minn.) had a strong campaign in his first year as a starter at 133, with a 22-15 mark.Will Keeter (SO, Twin Falls, Idaho) made his debut season a good one at 141, finishing 26-19.
Solid reserves, incoming class
A solid group of reserves and incoming wrestlers will add to the team’s depth this season, with at least three openings for new starters.
Several wrestlers will compete for openings in the lower weight classes, especially at 125, with Jesse Hylton (JR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) and Cody Madsen (JR, Bayport, Minn./Stillwater HS) returning, along with newcomers Chad Bartschenfeld (FY, Amery, Wis.) and Donny Rosenbloom (FY, Brooklyn Park, Minn./Park Center HS). Madsen won 12 matches with four pins last year.
A four-time state tournament qualifier in Wisconsin, Bartschenfeld won the state title at 103 pounds in 2010, while placing third at 103 in 2009 and sixth at 112 in 2011. Rosenbloom was a two-time Minnesota state tournament runner-up at 119 pounds at Park Center HS.
At 133, Suparat will be challenged by returner Alex Johnson (SR, Foxhome, Minn./Breckenridge HS) and newcomers Tom Kuehn(FY, Fargo, N.D./West Fargo HS), Michael deJolsvay (FY, Hopkins, Minn.) and Nick Dahlquist (FY, Albuquerque, N.M./Eldorado HS). Kuehn was a five-time North Dakota state tournament qualifier and four-time placewinner, placing second in both 2010 and 2011. DeJolsvay was a three-time state tournament qualifier at Hopkins HS.
At 174, sophomore Justin Bowland (SO, Foley, Minn.), who won 15 matches with three pins, is the likely candidate to fill the position, with returners Josh Kohler (SR, Monticello, Minn.) and Jackson Mboma (SR, Maple Grove, Minn.) also in competition, along with newcomer Tim Hanlin (FY, Andover, Minn.). Hanlin was a four-time team member of Minnesota/USA Wrestling squads in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.
Three newcomers will be in the mix to fill the opening at 184 – Caleb Davis (FY, Hayden, Idaho/Coeur d’Alene HS), Matt Hechsel(FY, Apple Valley, Minn.) and Joshua Vaughan (FY, Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy HS). Davis was a two-time Idaho state tournament placewinner, winning the state title at 189 in 2011. Hechsel was a two-time Minnesota state placewinner on Apple Valley teams that won three straight state team titles. Vaughan was a two-time state tournament participant at Bloomington Kennedy HS, placing fourth at 189 in 2011.
There’s plenty of talent in the middle weights. At 141, veterans Nathan Lexvold (SR, Kenyon, Minn./Kenyon-Wanamingo HS), Jake Saatzer (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS), Justin Koob (SR, New Ulm, Minn.) and Ryan Cook (SO, Wetumpka, Ala.) return to challenge Keeter. Rashad Kennedy (FY, Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Henry Sibley HS) joins the Auggies at 149.
At 157, co-captain Zach Enrico (SR, Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins HS) is back, along with returners Jordan Campa (SO, Albertville, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS). Kurt Knutsen (FY, Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley HS), a three-time state tournament qualifier and state runner-up in 2007, enters his first year of collegiate wrestling after spending four years in the U.S. Navy.
Returners Tony Castro (SO, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS) and Tommy Teigen (SO, Ham Lake, Minn./Meadow Creek Christian HS) are back at 165, along with newcomers Dan Egesdal (FY, Chanhassen, Minn.), Zach Riester (FY, Ellsworth, Wis.) andNoel Sweeney (SO, Grand Rapids, Minn.). Sweeney, a transfer from Minnesota, was a three-time state tournament placewinner at Grand Rapids HS. Egesdal was a two-time state placewinner at Chanhassen, while Riester was a two-time Wisconsin state tournament qualifier.
In the upper weights, Alex Krautkremer (SR, Jordan, Minn./Scott West) returns at 197, and Pat Fletcher (SR, Shelton, Neb.) is back at heavyweight. Both should provide strong competition to their starting counterparts.