Wrestling primed for huge weekend at nationals

Kevin Sethre, Staff Writer

The wrestling team won its 17th-straight regional championship on Feb. 23 in Eau Claire, Wisc., scoring a total of 191.0 points at the competition, 40 more than any other team. NCAA regional competition started in the 2002–03 season, and Augsburg has won its region every year. They are currently ranked second in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division-III national poll.

Nine Auggie wrestlers qualified for nationals, which are held in Roanoke, Va., this weekend, and five of them won their weight classes at regionals. Sam Bennyhoff, Alex Wilson, Ryan Epps, Lucas Jeske and Lance Benick all won their respective weight classes. Augsburg also had three runners-up and one wrestler who finished third.

Bennyhoff won the regional title and qualified for the national championship in each of his four seasons at Augsburg. Currently ranked second in his weight class, he will try to improve on his second-place finish in the 133-pound class a year ago.

Jeske won the 165-pound national championship last season and has a very good chance to do so again as he is the top-ranked wrestler nationally and has yet to lose this season. He won an 11–2 major decision in the final match of regionals. Epps is also a defending national titlist and is ranked second in the 157-pound class. He has a 33–3 record on the season and will look to repeat as well.

Wilson and Benick both won their first regional titles in Eau Claire. Wilson qualified for nationals last season and is ranked seventh in the 149-pound class. Benick is third in the 197-pound class and is making his first trip to the national tournament.

David Flynn, Victor Gliva, Solomon Nielsen and Tanner Vassar also qualified for nationals thanks to strong showings at the regional tournament. All are ranked in the top-ten nationally in their respective weight classes.

Augsburg Head Coach Jim Moulsoff won a share of the Upper Midwest Coach of the Year award, and Tony Valek was voted Assistant Coach of the Year in the region.

The Auggies have finished second at nationals each of the last two seasons behind rival Wartburg. The Knights have won three straight years, and either Wartburg or Augsburg has won the championship every season since 1994. Both schools are at the top of the national rankings right now, so that trend seems likely to continue.

Preliminary rounds begin Friday, March 8, and finals take place Saturday, March 9. Look for the Auggie grapplers to make a lot of noise this weekend.

This article was originally published in the March 8, 2019 issue.