ROANOKE, Va. — Twelve-time national champion Augsburg University will compete at the NCAA Division III National Championships on Friday and Saturday, March 8-9 at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, Va.
Action begins at 10 a.m. (Central time) on Friday with preliminary rounds, and quarterfinal and wrestleback action at 5 p.m. (Central) .On Saturday, action continues at 9 a.m. (Central) with championship semifinals, consolation action and placing matches for third, fifth and seventh places. Parade of All-Americans will be at 5:30 p.m. (Central), with the 10 national championship matches scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. (Central)
Augsburg qualified individuals in nine of 10 weight classes to the national championships after claiming an NCAA regional title for the 17th straight year, winning the NCAA Division III Upper Midwest Regional on Feb. 22-23 at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Augsburg had five regional champions, three runners-up and one third-place finisher at the regional.
All nine of Augsburg’s national tournament competitors are seeded among the top eight in their weight classes — the most in the field. Johnson & Wales (R.I.) also has nine wrestlers qualified to the national tournament, but only have six seeded wrestlers. Defending national champion Wartburg (Iowa) has seven wrestlers in the field, with six seeded among the top eight. Loras (Iowa) also has seven wrestlers in the field, with five seeded competitors. Four schools have six qualifiers each — Wabash (Ind.), Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio), Ithaca (N.Y.) and Wisconsin-Whitewater, and three schools have five qualifiers each — Wisconsin-La Crosse, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (Conn.) and The College of New Jersey.
The Auggies, winners of 12 Division III team national championships since 1991, enter the meet led by two defending national champions — 165-pounder Lucas Jeske (JR, St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS) and 157-pounder Ryan Epps (JR, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS).
One of eight unbeaten wrestlers in the 180-wrestler national tournament field, Jeske is 17-0 this season and carries a 27-match winning streak into the national tournament. Epps enters the national tournament at 33-3 overall and 18-1 against Division III competition, with his lone loss coming to defending 149-pound national champion Cross Cannone of Wartburg (8-4 on Jan. 31), who has moved up to 157 and is the top seed in the tournament in the weight class. Epps is seeded No. 2 at 157.
Defending 133-pound national runner-up Sam Bennyhoff (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS) is the No. 2 seed in his bracket, entering the tournament with a 24-4 record and 18-1 mark against Division III competition. He’s making his fourth straight national tournament appearance.
Two Auggies are seeded third — 125-pounder Victor Gliva (JR, Farmington, Minn./Farmington HS) and 197-pounder Lance Benick (SO, Scandia, Minn./Totino-Grace HS). Gliva, a three-time national qualifier and 2017 All-American (eighth-place), is 25-5, while Benick is making his national tournament debut at 25-3.
Alex Wilson (SR, Oak Grove, Minn./St. Francis HS) a fifth-place finisher last year at 149, is seeded sixth this season in the class, while Tanner Vassar (JR, Maple Lake, Minn./Maple Lake HS), a seventh-place finisher at 174 last season, is seeded seventh there this year.
Two Auggies are seeded eighth — 141-pounder David Flynn (JR, Jordan, Minn./Jordan HS (Scott West)) and 184-pounder Solomon Nielsen (SO, Luverne, Minn./Luverne HS). Flynn, an All-American who finished third at 141 in 2017, is making his third national tournament appearance, while Nielsen is making his national tournament debut.
Depth has always been a hallmark of the Augsburg wrestling program, and that has shown in the number of All-Americans — finishers in the top eight of each weight class — that the team has had in national competition. Augsburg has earned at least two All-Americans every year since 1988.
Augsburg has had at least one All-American in national competition every year since 1977 — 42 straight years. Augsburg has now earned 244 wrestling All-Americans in program history (206 in NCAA competition, 38 in NAIA).