MINNEAPOLIS — Qualifying eight individuals to national tournament competition, including four regional champions, the Augsburg College wrestling team claimed an NCAA regional title for the 12th straight year, winning the NCAA Division III West Regional tournament, held on Saturday at Augsburg’s Si Melby Hall.
Augsburg, ranked No. 6 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national poll, won the regional title with 148.0 points, topping No. 5-ranked Concordia-Moorhead’s 136.5 points. No. 21-ranked Saint John’s was third with 92.0 points, and Wisconsin-Oshkosh was fourth with 72.5 points. The Auggies have won each NCAA regional it has participated in since going to regional qualifiers in 2003.
Augsburg qualified eight individuals to compete at the NCAA Division III National Championships, to be held March 14-15 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The eight qualifiers were the most of any school in the regional. Concordia-Moorhead qualified seven individuals to nationals, while Concordia-Wisconsin and St. Olaf had three qualifiers each. Saint John’s, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Wisconsin-Eau Claire had two qualifiers each, and Wisconsin-Platteville, Pacific (Ore.) and the Milwaukee School of Engineering each had a qualifier.
“It was a great day for the Auggies. Coming together this past month, after some serious setbacks midseason, shows a tremendous amount of character of the young men on this team,” said Augsburg Head Coach Mark Matzek. “Our slogan for the year is ‘Pursue, Persist, Persevere.’ We lived up to that slogan today. I am extremely proud of every person associated with this effort. We can have Sunday to celebrate, and we will be back Monday in full training force to pursue a trophy at the NCAAs.”
Two-time defending heavyweight national champion Chad Johnson (SR, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS) will get a chance to pursue his third straight crown, as he earned his third straight regional title with four victories, including pins in his first two matches. The top-ranked heavyweight nationally, Johnson topped No. 3-ranked Cody Kasprick of Concordia-Moorhead 5-3 in the title match on Saturday, improving to 31-1 on the season.
A three-time All-American, Johnson earned his fourth straight trip to the national tournament, improving to 136-14 on his career. Johnson has not lost to a Division III wrestler since his first season at Augsburg, and is now 104-3 since the beginning of his sophomore campaign.
Mike Fuenffinger (JR, Hibbing, Minn.) qualified for the national tournament for the third straight year, winning the regional crown for the first time at 125 pounds. He opened his tournament run with a first-period pin, then scored two major-decision wins, including a 10-2, championship-match win over Sean Ambrocio of Concordia-Wisconsin.
Fuenffinger will have the opportunity to earn All-American honors for the second time in his career, after finishing seventh at 125 pounds last season. He is 30-3 on the year and 73-20 in his three seasons at Augsburg.
Justin Bowland (SR, Foley, Minn.) will compete at the national tournament for the second time, after winning the 165-pound title at the regional. After opening his tournament run with a major-decision win, he had to rally with a takedown in the closing seconds of regulation and another in sudden-victory overtime to score an 8-6 win in the quarterfinals. He then scored two more wins, including a 10-2, major-decision win over Peter Kootstra of MSOE in the finals, to win the regional crown. Bowland is now 25-14 on the season and 70-58 in his Auggie career.
Chad Bartschenfeld (JR, Amery, Wis.) earned a trip to the national tournament for the first time, after winning the regional crown at 133 pounds. He opened his tournament with a pin and a technical fall, then won twice more, including an 8-3 triumph in the finals over Concordia-Wisconsin’s Marcus Lubner. Bartschenfeld is 22-13 this season and 44-32 in his career.
Two Auggies finished in second place in their weight classes, both earning their second berths in the national tournament after injuries curtailed their seasons last year. Will Keeter (JR, Twin Falls, Idaho), who finished third nationally at 141 in 2012, finished second at Saturday’s regional at 149 pounds, improving to 27-15 this season and 96-44 in his Auggie career. Tommy Teigen (JR, Ham Lake, Minn./Meadow Creek Christian HS), a national qualifier at 165 in 2012, finished second at 184 pounds on Saturday, improving to 19-12 on the year and 62-36 in his career.
Matt Hechsel (JR, Apple Valley, Minn.), a seventh-place national finisher at 197 last season, will return to the national tournament after placing third at 197 in Saturday’s regional. Hechsel, the No. 5-ranked 197-pounder nationally, was upset 3-2 in the semifinals, but rallied back with two wins, including a 14-1, major-decision triumph in the third-place match, to improve to 30-6 on the season and 84-35 in his career.
Marcus Hamer (FY, Kimball, Minn.) qualified for the national tournament for the first time with a third-place finish at 141 pounds, rallying from a semifinal loss with a 17-2, technical-fall win and an 8-1 win in the third-place match. He is now 24-13 this season.
Two Auggies saw their seasons end in the regional. Rashad Kennedy (JR, Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Henry Sibley HS) finished fifth at 157 pounds, finishing his season at 22-17, and Tyrell Martin (JR, Eagan, Minn./Henry Sibley HS) finished sixth at 174 pounds, finishing his season at 17-14.
Jim Moulsoff, in his seventh year as an Augsburg assistant coach, was named West Region Assistant Coach of the Year by his regional coaching peers.