CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Augsburg College’s Mike Fuenffinger (JR, Hibbing, Minn.) won his first NCAA Division III national championship at 125 pounds, claiming his third major-decision victory of the tournament with a 12-4 triumph over Lucas Malmberg of Messiah (Pa.) at the NCAA Division III National Championships on Saturday evening at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Fuenffinger claimed five takedowns and collected 3:00 of riding time in a dominating performance in the title match. Leading 6-0 after two periods, Fuenffinger surrendered a two-point near-fall by Malmberg, but responded by converting and escape and two more takedowns, including one at the end of the match to give him his third major decision win of the tournament.
“The strategy was to keep my hands on him the whole time, stay on him and keep going forward,” Fuenffinger said. “Never let off on top, just be relentless, and never let the guy breathe. I think I accomplished that pretty well and executed the plan.”
A two-time All-American after finishing seventh nationally at 125 last year, Fuenffinger finished his junior season at 34-3, including 16 bonus-point decisions (eight major decisions, seven pins, one technical fall). Fuenffinger is 76-20 in his Augsburg career.
“It’s amazing. I feel great. It’s what I’ve been working for this whole year,” Fuenffinger said. “I just wanted to go out there and wrestle to my hardest. I didn’t know what to expect, but I know giving it my all, that’s the best outcome.”
As a team, Augsburg finished in fifth place with 43.0 points, marking the 27th straight year (every year since 1988) that Augsburg has finished in the top 10 in NCAA Division III wrestling national competition.
Earlier in the day, Fuenffinger scored a 10-0, major-decision win over Matthias Ellis II of Brockport State (N.Y.) in the semfinals. He claimed a takedown midway through the first period, another late in the second period, and a reversal and three-point near-fall in the third period, building 2:31 of riding time en route to the win.
Fuenffinger is Augsburg’s 48th wrestling national champion in school history, including a national-record 44 titles in NCAA Division III competition. His national title is the fifth for an Augsburg wrestler at 125 pounds since 2001, joining Darin Bertram (2001), Matt Shankey (2004 and 2005) and Seth Flodeen (2008) in that category.
“Mike earned it. He earned that championship. He had his highs and lows throughout the year, but that’s what a wrestling season is all about,” said Augsburg Head Coach Mark Matzek, a two-time national champion (133 pounds) during his Augsburg career. “For him to go through the trials that he did … and to come back out on top, that’s real life and I’m proud of this kid.”
Fuenffinger was one of two Auggies to earn All-America honors, bringing Augsburg’s wrestling All-American total to 222 in program history (186 NCAA, 36 NAIA). Augsburg has had at least one All-American in national competition every year since 1977, and has had two or more All-Americans every year since 1988, a 27-year streak.
Earlier in the day, heavyweight Chad Johnson (SR, Ferryville, Wis./De Soto HS) finished in third place, becoming the sixth Augsburg wrestler to earn four or more All-American honors. He was upset 7-5 by No. 4-seed — and eventual national champion — James Buss of Loras (Iowa) in the semifinals — the first loss for Johnson against a Division III opponent since his first season at Augsburg.
Johnson recovered from the loss with a 3-0 win over Mackenzie Green of Trine (Ind.), and a 7-3 win over Zachery Roseberry of Delaware Valley (Pa.) in the third-place match, Johnson’s second win over Roseberry during the championships.
Johnson finished his senior season at 35-2 and 140-15 in his Augsburg career. Over his final three seasons, Johnson was 108-4.
Final Top 10 Team Scores: 1. Wartburg (Iowa) 103.5, 2. Wisconsin-Whitewater 67.0; 3. Messiah (Pa.) 64.0; 4. Coe (Iowa) 54.0; 5. Augsburg (Minn.) 43.0; 6t. Delaware Valley (Pa.) 39.5; 6t. Cortland State (N.Y.) 39.5; 8. Johnson & Wales (R.I.) 37.0; 9. Wabash (Ind.) 36.0; 10. Wisconsin-Oshkosh 34.5. Other Minnesota schools: 12t. Concordia-Moorhead 28.5; 51t. St. Olaf 1.5; 59t. Saint John’s 0.0.
Saturday’s individual results from Minnesota college wrestlers:
125 — Mike Fuenffinger (Augsburg) maj. dec. Matthias Ellis II (Brockport State) 10-0. National Championship match: Fuenffinger maj. dec. Lucas Malmberg (Messiah) 12-4.
133 — Jacoby Bergeron (Concordia-Moorhead) dec. Silas Murray (Rhode Island College) 6-4; Ryan O’Boyle (McDaniel) dec. Bergeron 6-5. Fifth-place match: Jimmy Nehls (UW-Whitewater) dec. Bergeron 10-4.
149 — Vincent Fava (Delaware Valley) dec. Jacob Long (Concordia-Moorhead) 6-5; Seventh-place match: Long dec. Nick Drendel (Dubuque) 6-3.
HWT — James Buss (Loras) dec. Chad Johnson (Augsburg) 7-5; Johnson dec. Mackenzie Green (Trine) 3-0. Third-place match: Johnson dec. Zachery Roseberry (Delaware Valley) 7-3.