MINNEAPOLIS — Claiming two individual champions and qualifying eight individuals to the NCAA Division III National Championships, the Augsburg College wrestling team claimed a regional championship for the 11th straight year, winning the NCAA Division III West Regional on Saturday afternoon at Augsburg’s Si Melby Hall.
Augsburg has won every NCAA regional it has participated in since going to a regional qualifying format in 2003. It’s the fifth straight regional title for Augsburg head coach Mark Matzek. The Auggies accumulated 143.5 points to win the regional, ahead of second-place Concordia-Moorhead’s 133.0 points and third-place St. John’s (Minn.) 127.0 points.
Augsburg was one of four schools to claim two individual champions, joining Concordia, St. John’s and Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Concordia-Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Eau Claire also claimed individual champions on Saturday.
Defending NCAA Division III heavyweight national champion Chad Johnson (JR, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS) reached a career milestone on Saturday, claiming his 100th career victory in scoring the regional title and a national tournament berth. The top-ranked heavyweight in the latest Division III national poll, Johnson opened with a first-period pin and claimed two more wins, including a 2-1 triumph over No. 4-ranked Tom Bouressa of Concordia-Moorhead in the championship match.
Johnson is now 101-13 in his three seasons at Augsburg, including a 65-2 record the last two seasons. Johnson is unbeaten over his last two years against Division III opponents; his only two losses have come to the two-time defending national champion and two-time defending national runner-up in Division II.
Augsburg’s Matt Hechsel (SO, Apple Valley, Minn.) qualified for his first national tournament with a dominating performance at 197 pounds, winning the regional title for the first time. Hechsel opened with a 53-second pin, then claimed a 13-0, major-decision win in the quarterfinals, a 16-0, technical-fall victory in the semifinals and a 5-4 win over Nathan Schmitz of Concordia-Moorhead in the finals. Hechsel is now 32-9 on the season.
#Tossaporn (Boyd) Suparat# finished second at the regional finished second at the regional at 133 pounds, qualifying for the national tournament for the first time in his career. Suparat improved to 28-12 on the season, scoring a 14-0, major-decision win and a third-period pin en route to his regional runner-up finish.
Five Auggies finished third in their weight classes at the regional, earning spots in the national tournament field. This is the first year of the new regional format for NCAA Division III wrestling, where the top three finishers in each weight class in each of six regionals earn national tournament berths.
Two Auggies will make their second trips to the national tournament — 125-pounder Mike Fuenffinger (SO, Hibbing, Minn.) and 174-pounder Josh Kohler (SR, Monticello, Minn.).
Fuenffinger scored three pins on the day, improving to 26-6 on the season with his third-place finish at 125. Kohler claimed a first-round pin and went 4-1 on the day, improving to 27-12 on the season with his third-place finish.
Tom Kuehn (SO, Fargo, N.D./West Fargo HS) earned his first trip to the national tournament with a third-place finish at 141, improving to 24-6 on the season. Justin Bowland (JR, Foley, Minn.) also qualified for the national tournament for the first time, finishing third at 165 pounds and moving to 20-17 in the process.
Kurt Knutsen (SO, Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley HS) had a dramatic comeback after losing his first match on Saturday to finish third at 157 pounds. Now 13-21 on the season, Knutsen won four straight matches, including a 4-3 win in the third-place match, to qualify for the national tournament for the first time.
Minnesota schools claimed 20 of the 30 qualifiers from the West Regional to the national tournament. Both Concordia-Moorhead and St. John’s had six national tournament qualifiers, while St. Olaf had one qualifier. Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Concordia-Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Eau Claire had two qualifiers each, and Wisconsin-Platteville, Pacific (Oregon) and Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.) each had one qualifier.
The NCAA Division III National Championships will be held March 15-16 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Augsburg has won 11 Division III national championships since 1991, and will aim to extend two unique streaks; Augsburg has finished among the top four at the national championships for 24 straight years, and has also had five or more All-Americans at the national tournament for 24 straight years.