MINNEAPOLIS — The No. 2-ranked Augsburg University wrestling team claimed an NCAA Division III regional title for the 16th straight year, qualifying individuals in seven weight classes to the national championships at the NCAA Upper Midwest Regional, completed on Saturday at Si Melby Hall.
FINAL TEAM SCORES:
1. Augsburg (Minn.) 147.0; 2. Wisconsin-La Crosse 128.0; 3. Wisconsin-Whitewater 93.0; 4. Wisconsin-Stevens Point 79.0; 5. Elmhurst (Ill.) 78.5; 6. Wisconsin-Platteville 77.0; 7. Wheaton (Ill.) 66.0; 8. Wisconsin-Eau Claire 65.5; 9. Wisconsin-Oshkosh 53.5; 10t. Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) 49.5; 10t. University of Chicago (Ill.) 49.5; 12t. Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.) 32.5; 13t. Saint John’s (Minn.) 19.5; 13t. St. Olaf (Minn.) 19.5; 15. Concordia-Wisconsin 9.5; 16. Pacific (Ore.) 5.5; 17. Lakeland (Wis.) 0.0.
Augsburg, ranked No. 2 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national poll, won the 17-team regional with 147.0 points. Augsburg has won the team title in its NCAA regional every year since starting regional competition in the 2002-03 season.
With its seven national tournament qualifiers — including five first-year competitors — Augsburg has had seven or more national tournament qualifiers in 15 of the last 16 seasons. Augsburg had three regional champions, two runners-up, and two third-place finishers. The top three finishers in each weight class qualify for the national tournament.
Augsburg Head Coach Jim Moulsoff was named Co-West Region Coach of the Year, sharing the honor with Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Dave Malacek, while Augsburg’s Tony Valek was named West Region Assistant Coach of the Year by his coaching peers.
Sam Bennyhoff (JR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS), ranked No. 4 nationally at 133, will compete in his third straight national tournament, after winning the regional title for the third straight year. Now 32-5 on the season, Bennyhoff claimed an 8-5 victory over Josh Stenger of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the semifinals, then topped No. 5-ranked Anthony Munoz of Elmhurst (Ill.) in the finals, his second win over Munoz this season. Bennyhoff is now 90-21 on his career with 17 pins, 15 technical falls, and 25 major decisions.
Top-ranked 157-pounder Ryan Epps (SO, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS) extended his winning streak to 22 straight matches with two victories on Saturday to claim the regional title and a national tournament berth for the second straight year. He scored a 5-4 win over Grant Zamin of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the semifinals, then beat No. 3-ranked Mark Choinski of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the finals. Epps is now 38-1 on the season and 70-8 in his career with 12 pins, six technical falls, and 11 major decisions.
Lucas Jeske (SO, St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS), ranked No. 2 nationally at 165, earned his second straight regional title and national tournament bid with his regional title, improving to 35-1 on the season. On Saturday, he scored a 5:27 pin of Chase Schmidt of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the semifinals. He claimed the regional title on a medical forfeit. Jeske is now 59-9 in his collegiate career with 27 pins, five technical falls, and 11 major decisions.
At 125, Victor Gliva (SO, Farmington, Minn./Farmington HS) reached the finals with a 12-3, major-decision win over No. 8-ranked Mike Tortorice of Wisconsin-Whitewater, but dropped a 9-5 decision to No. 4-ranked Carlos Feuntez of Wheaton (Ill.), named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler by coaches, in the finals. Advancing to his second straight national tournament, Gliva is now 28-6 on the season and 60-13 in his career, with 15 pins, six technical falls and 13 major decisions. He earned All-American honors with an eighth-place national finish last year.
Tanner Vassar (SO, Maple Lake, Minn./Maple Lake HS) finished second at 174 pounds to earn his first trip to the national tournament. In the semifinals, he scored a 7-5 win over Sawyer Massie of Wisconsin-La Crosse but suffered a 5-0 loss to No. 7-ranked Jon Goetz of Wisconsin-Platteville in the finals. Vassar is now 32-8 on the season and 64-18 with 20 pins, six technical falls and six major decisions in his career.
David Flynn (SO, Jordan, Minn./Jordan HS (Scott West)), ranked No. 2 nationally at 141, finished third in the weight class at the regional, earning his second straight national tournament trip. He was upset 9-4 by Hayden Schlough of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the semifinals but rallied with a 12-2 major decision win over Chaise Hauck of Chicago (lll.) and a 6-4 win over No. 4-ranked Devin Tortorice of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the third-place match. An All-American after finishing third nationally last year, Flynn is now 19-4 on the season, 43-9 in his Augsburg career and 71-23 in his collegiate career.
Alex Wilson (JR, Oak Grove, Minn./St. Francis HS), ranked No. 3 nationally at 149, will compete in his first national tournament, after finishing third in his weight class. In the semifinals, he suffered a 5-2 loss to Spencer Nevills of Wisconsin-La Crosse, but came back with a 15-5 major decision win over Luke Smiley of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, then topped Concordia-Moorhead’s Ty Johnson for the third time this season, a 6-0 win in the third-place match. Wilson is now 31-5 on the season and 89-29 in his career with 24 pins, nine technical falls, and 17 major decisions.
Three Auggies saw their seasons come to an end on Saturday. At 184, senior Sebastian Larson (SR, River Falls, Wis./River Falls HS), a national tournament qualifier in 2016, finished fourth. On Saturday, he scored a 5-0 win over Luke Dodd of Saint John’s and a 2-1 win over Colten Cashmore of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the wrestlebacks but dropped a 7-2 decision to No. 10-ranked Dan Squires of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the third-place match. He finished his senior season at 27-10 and his career at 86-55 with eight pins, five technical falls, and 13 major decisions.
No. 9-ranked 197-pounder Lance Benick (FY, Fridley, Minn./Totino-Grace HS) ended his first Auggie campaign with a fourth-place regional finish. He lost a 7-3 decision to Ramsey Bloy of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the semifinals, then edged Cody Meyer of Wisconsin-Platteville 8-7 to reach the third-place match. But he suffered a 2:30 pin to No. 4-ranked Wesley Schultz of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the third-place match. Benick, a transfer from Division I Arizona State, finished his season at 11-5.
Heavyweight Ethan Hofacker (SO, Spring Valley, Wis./Spring Valley HS) suffered a 6-1 loss to Will Hare of the University of Chicago (Ill.) in the wrestlebacks, finishing his season with 10 wins. He has 29 wins in his Auggie career.
The seven Auggie qualifiers will compete at the NCAA Division III National Championships, to be held March 9-10 at the Cleveland Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio.