MINNEAPOLIS — With seven individuals ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes, the Augsburg University wrestling team is the top-ranked team in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III preseason national rankings, released this week.
Winners of 12 NCAA Division III national championships since 1991 and national runners-up 13 times (12 in Division III, once in NAIA), the 2018 national runner-up Auggies received 44 votes from a panel of eight Division III coaches in the initial NWCA poll, ahead of Ithaca (N.Y.), which received 40 points. Johnson & Wales (R.I.) received 36 points for the No. 3 spot, and defending national champion Wartburg (Iowa) received 32 votes to land in the No. 4 spot.
Seven Augsburg wrestlers were listed among the top 10 individuals in their weight classes, led by defending national champion Ryan Epps (JR, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS), ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds. Epps finished 42-1 last season with eight pins to claim his first national title. A two-time national tournament qualifier, Epps is 76-8 in his career with 13 pins, six technical falls and 11 major decisions.
Defending national runner-up Sam Bennyhoff (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS) received the No. 2 ranking at 133, behind Wartburg’s Brock Rathbun, who topped Bennyhoff in last season’s national title match. A three-time national tournament qualifier, Bennyhoff went 35-6 last season with nine pins. He is 93-22 with 17 pins, 15 technical falls and 26 major decisions in his career.
Two Auggies received the No. 4 rankings in their weight classes — 149-pounder Alex Wilson (SR, Oak Grove, Minn./St. Francis HS) and 174-pounder Tanner Vassar (JR, Maple Lake, Minn./Maple Lake HS). Both earned their first All-American honors in their first national tournaments last year, with Wilson finishing 35-7 to take fifth at 149, and Vassar finishing 35-10 to place seventh at 174.
Victor Gliva (JR, Farmington, Minn./Farmington HS), a two-time national tournament qualifier who was an eighth-place finisher at 125 pounds at the 2017 national tournament, landed in the No. 6 spot in the preseason poll. He finished 29-8 last season and is 61-15 in his career. David Flynn (JR, Jordan, Minn./Jordan HS (Scott West)), a two-time national tournament qualifier, is ranked No. 7 at 141 pounds in the preseason poll. A third-place national finisher at 141 in 2017, Flynn was 20-6 last season and is 73-25 in his collegiate career (45-11 at Augsburg).
Lance Benick (SO, Fridley, Minn./Totino-Grace HS) is ranked No. 9 at 197 pounds. A mid-season transfer from Division I Arizona State, Benick went 11-5 at Augsburg last season.
Under fifth-season head coach Jim Moulsoff, Augsburg opens its 2018-19 season at the annual Augsburg Auggie-Adidas Invitational on Nov. 17 at Si Melby Hall.