LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the seventh time in program history and second year in a row, the top-ranked Augsburg University wrestling team claimed the title at the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III National Duals, claiming a 26-9 win over No. 5-ranked Wabash College (Ind.) in the semifinals and a 20-13 win over No. 3-ranked Johnson & Wales University (R.I.) in the championship match on Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center.
On Saturday, Augsburg wrestlers claimed victories in 14 of 20 bouts, including six wins in the title match, as Augsburg rallied from an early 10-3 deficit to claim the championship in the 24-team Division III tournament, which included nine of the top 10-ranked teams in the NWCA Division III national poll and 15 of the top 25-ranked teams. During the four matches in the two-day event, Augsburg wrestlers claimed wins in 31 of 40 bouts, including nine bonus-point wins and one forfeit. Augsburg, ranked No. 1 all season long in the NWCA’s Division III national poll, is now 7-0 in dual meets.
Augsburg won five of the final six bouts against Johnson & Wales in the championship match, keyed by a 17-2, technical fall victory by Tanner Vassar (JR, Maple Lake, Minn./Maple Lake HS) at 174 pounds. An All-American at 174 after a seventh-place national finish last year, Vassar competed at 184 in the first half of the season, and entered the tournament ranked No. 4 in the weight class. He returned to 174 in the National Duals, and after a tight first period against JWU’s Mike Gargano, Vassar used a reversal and four-point near-fall to spark his run to the win, improving to 7-3 on the year. Vassar dropped a 12-5 decision to Wabash’s top-ranked Darden Schurg in the semifinals.
Defending NCAA Division III 165-pound national champion Lucas Jeske (JR, St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS) made his season debut this weekend and went 4-0, scoring a 7-6 win over Wabash’s Kyle Hatch and a 9-2 triumph over JWU’s Adrian Gonazlez. A two-time All-American for the Auggies, Jeske is now 68-9 in his career.
Defending 157-pound national champion Ryan Epps (JR, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS) also went 4-0 at the National Duals. Epps, who had competed at 165 pounds during the first semester and entered the weekend ranked No. 1 there, moved back down to 157 this weekend. On Saturday, he scored a 10-6 win over Austin Bethel of Wabash in the semifinals, then scored an efficient 4-0 win over Tommy Grippi of JWU in the finals to improve to 17-1 on the season and 92-9 in his career.
No. 4-ranked 197-pounder Lance Benick (SO, Scandia, Minn./Totino-Grace HS) also went 4-0 on the weekend, and had a crucial win in the finals, scoring a 7-3 triumph over JWU’s No. 5-ranked Mike DiNardo. He used a first-period takedown and two-point near-fall to build a lead he would never relinquish, improving to 13-2 on the season. Benick also scored a 5-1 win over Wabash’s Levi Miller in the semifinals.
Also going 4-0 on the weekend was No. 3-ranked 141-pounder David Flynn (JR, Jordan, Minn./Jordan HS (Scott West)). He scored a 10-4 win over Wabash’s Riley Lomenick in the semifinals, then edged JWU’s No. 7-raked Joe Ferinde 2-1 in a tight match, improving to 10-1 in the process.
Heavyweight Ethan Hofacker (JR, Spring Valley, Wis./Spring Valley HS) secured the championship victory for the Auggies in dramatic fashion, breaking a scoreless tie with a takedown with 10 seconds left in a 2-0 victory over JWU’s Jayson Gomez in the final bout of the day. Hofacker is now 10-9 on the season.
Against Wabash, No. 2-ranked 133-pounder Sam Bennyhoff (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS) gave the Auggies a big boost with a dominating performance, scoring a 15-0, third-period technical-fall victory over Chris Diaz, his 10th straight win to start the season. He suffered his first loss with a 13-7 setback to JWU’s Bobby Jordan in the finals. Bennyhoff is now 103-23 in his Auggie career, with 63 bonus-point wins (29 major decisions, 16 technical falls, 18 pins).
Top-ranked 149-pounder Alex Wilson (SR, Oak Grove, Minn./St. Francis HS) claimed a 10-4 win over Riley Lomenick of Wabash in the semifinals, but suffered am 8-6 overtime loss to JWU’s No. 3-ranked Da’mani Burns. Tied 6-6 going into sudden-victory overtime, Wilson was initially given a match-winning takedown on the edge of the mat 20 seconds into overtime, but the call was challenged and overturned on video review. Nine seconds later, Burns scored a takedown to claim the win. Wilson is now 17-2 on the season.
Victor Gliva (JR, Farmington, Minn./Farmington HS), ranked No. 6 at 125, went 1-1 on the day, scoring a 6-2 win over Carlos Champagne of Wabash while dropping a 11-2 major decision to No. 2-ranked Jay Albis of JWU. Gliva is now 12-3 on the year. Solomon Nielsen (SO, Luverne, Minn./Luverne HS) also went 1-1 to move to 13-3 on the season, scoring a 6-1 win over Wabash’s Ethan Herrin and falling 8-4 to JWU’s No. 3-ranked Khamri Thomas.
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
Since the NWCA began the Division III National Duals in 2002, Augsburg has now won the title seven times (2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2018, 2019). Augsburg has finished second five times, third twice, fourth once, sixth once and seventh once.
Augsburg is now 58-15 in NWCA Division III National Duals competition since 2002. Augsburg also appeared in five NWCA National Duals competitions prior to the 2002 season, when the defending Division III national champion was invited to compete with Division I squads. Augsburg is now 63-24 all-time in NWCA National Duals competition.
In its 73 NWCA Division III National Duals meets, Augsburg has now outscored its competition by a 2,023-to-876 margin, an average score of 27.7-to-12.0.
This was the fifth time Augsburg and Johnson & Wales had met in NWCA Division III National Duals competition. Augsburg has now won four of the five meetings.
Against opponents from Divisions II and III, Augsburg is now 334-51-1 in dual meets since the 1989-90 season. Augsburg has lost just 47 matches to non-Division I opponents since the 1995-96 season.
Against strictly NCAA Division III opponents, Augsburg is 323-50-1 since the 1979-80 season. Since the 1989-90 season, Augsburg is 248-40-1 against Division III opponents.
Augsburg travels to face Division II Southwest Minnesota State in a dual meet next Saturday (1/12) at 2 p.m. Augsburg’s White Team (junior varsity) will compete at the Cornell (Iowa) Matman Open next Saturday at 9 a.m.
FINAL SCORES: Augsburg 26, Wabash (Ind.) 9; Augsburg 20, Johnson & Wales (R.I.) 13
LOCATION: Kentucky Expo Center Exhibition Hall (semifinals), Freedom Hall (finals), Louisville, Ky.
RECORD: Augsburg 7-0 overall
No. 1 Augsburg (7-0) 20, No. 3 Johnson & Wales (12-4) 13
125 — No. 2 Jay Albis (JWU, 21-4) maj. dec. No. 6 Victor Gliva (AUG, 12-3) 11-2 (Johnson & Wales 4-0).
133 — Bobby Jordan (JWU, 7-6) dec. No. 2 Sam Bennyhoff (AUG, 10-1) 13-7 (Johnson & Wales 7-0).
141 — No. 3 David Flynn (AUG, 10-1) dec. No. 7 Joe Ferinde (JWU, 19-9) 2-1 (Johnson & Wales 7-3).
149 — No. 3 Da’mani Burns (JWU, 19-3) dec. No. 1 Alex Wilson (AUG, 17-2) dec. 8-6 (OT-SV1) (Johnson & Wales 10-3).
157 — No. 1 (165) Ryan Epps (AUG, 17-1) dec. Tommy Grippi (JWU, 10-12) 4-0 (Johnson & Wales 10-6).
165 — Lucas Jeske (AUG, 4-0) dec. Adrian Gonzalez (JWU, 12-8) 9-2 (Johnson & Wales 10-9).
174 — No. 4 (184) Tanner Vassar (AUG, 7-3) tech. fall Mike Gargano (JWU, 17-9) 17-2 at 7:00 (Augsburg 14-10).
184 — No. 3 Khamri Thomas (JWU, 18-4) dec. Solomon Nielsen (AUG, 13-3) 8-4 (Augsburg 14-13).
197 — No. 4 Lance Benick (AUG, 13-2) dec. No. 5 Mike DiNardo (JWU, 19-5) 7-3 (Augsburg 17-13).
HWT — Ethan Hofacker (AUG, 10-9) dec. Jayson Gomez (JWU, 8-8) 2-0 (Augsburg 20-13).
No. 1 Augsburg (6-0) 26, No. 5 Wabash (5-2) 9
125 — No. 6 Victor Gliva (AUG, 12-2) dec. Carlos Champagne (WAB, 2-1) 6-2 (Augsburg 3-0).
133 — No. 2 Sam Bennyhoff (AUG, 10-0) tech. fall Chris Diaz (WAB, 4-9) 15-0 at 6:26 (Augsburg 8-0).
141 — No. 3 David Flynn (AUG, 9-1) dec. Riley Lomenick (WAB, 14-6) 10-4 (Augsburg 11-0).
149 — No. 1 Alex Wilson (AUG, 17-1) dec. No. 8 Griffin Schermer (WAB, 14-5) 7-3 (Augsburg 14-0).
157 — No. 1 (165) Ryan Epps (AUG, 16-1) dec. Austin Bethel (WAB, 3-3) 10-6 (Augsburg 17-0).
165 — Lucas Jeske (AUG, 3-0) dec. Kyle Hatch (WAB, 12-2) 7-6 (Augsburg 20-0).
174 — No. 1 Darden Schurg (WAB, 18-1) dec. No. 4 (184) Tanner Vassar (AUG, 6-3) 12-5 (Augsburg 20-3).
184 — Solomon Nielsen (AUG, 13-2) dec. Ethan Herrin (WAB, 10-8) 6-1 (Augsburg 23-3).
197 — No. 4 Lance Benick (AUG, 12-2) dec. Levi Miller (WAB, 13-9) 5-1 (Augsburg 26-3).
HWT — Wade Ripple (WAB, 13-6) pinned Ethan Hofacker (AUG, 9-9) 2:21 (Augsburg 26-9).