Augsburg, Wartburg meet Thursday (Photo/Augsburg Athletics)The main event pits the No. 2-ranked Auggies and No. 1-ranked Knights, the teams that have combined to win every NCAA Division III wrestling national title since 1995. Both Augsburg and Wartburg have won a record 12 Division III national crowns in wrestling.
Thursday's dual meet is slated to include 14 nationally ranked wrestlers in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national poll -- five Auggies and nine Knights. This is the second time the Knights and Auggies have met this season; Wartburg bested Augsburg 31-9 in the finals of the NWCA Division III National Duals on Jan. 6 in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The teams now wrestle for the "Swens/Milboy Belt," a traveling trophy created in 2015 for the series between the two schools. The trophy is named for the two coaches who built the Lutheran colleges to national prominence in small-college wrestling -- Augsburg's Jeff Swenson (1980-84, 1986-2007) and Wartburg's Jim Miller (1991-2013). Both coaches led their teams to 10 NCAA Division III national titles during their careers. (Read more about the history of the Augsburg-Wartburg wrestling rivalry in this 2012 article from the New York Times).
Check out this podcast, featuring former coaches Jeff Swenson and Jim Miller, previewing the 2017 "Battle of the 'Burgs."
In addition to the collegiate dual, there will also be a high school dual between two powers in Minnesota and Iowa, Scott West (Jordan/Belle Plaine, Minn.) and Waverly-Shell Rock (Iowa), which will begin at 5:30 p.m. Scott West is currently ranked No. 2 in the Minnesota Class AA state rankings by The Guillotine newspaper, while Waverly-Shell Rock is ranked No. 5 in the latest Iowa Class 3A state rankings by The Predicament newspaper.
Augsburg will also welcome back three of its wrestling championship teams on Thursday for the "Reunion of 7s" -- the 1987 MIAC championship team, the 1997 NCAA Division III national championship team and the 2007 NCAA Division III national championship team. There will be a reception prior to the Augsburg-Wartburg dual in the Kennedy Center, beginning at 5 p.m.
The 1986-87 Auggie squad claimed the MIAC crown, its 15th in a stretch of 32 conference championships and the first of 18 consecutive titles from 1987 to 2004 (when the MIAC dropped wrestling as a conference sport). John Beatty (126 pounds) and Donny Wichmann (142 pounds) won MIAC titles that year, with Wichmann earning both tournament MVP and the most falls awards at the conference meet. Augsburg finished 10-5 in duals in the 1986-87 season. The Auggies finished 17th at the NCAA Division III National Championships, with Beatty earning All-American honors with a second-place national finish at 126 pounds.
The 1996-97 Augsburg squad won the school's fourth NCAA Division III national championship, claiming eight All-Americans, the most the Auggies had ever earned to that point. Henry Gerten (118 pounds) and Dan Lewandowski (190 pounds) won national titles, while Jesse Bakalyar (150) and Justin Hahn (158) were national runners-up. Brian Jones placed third at 126, Wade Johnson (142) and John Pena (heavyweight) each placed fourth, and Jim Peterson placed seven at 167. The team went 14-1 in dual meets and claimed the MIAC title for the 25th time, claiming five league titlists -- Gerten (118), Jamie Larkin (134), Johnson (142), Lewandowski (190) and Pena (heavyweight).
The 2006-07 Augsburg squad claimed the school's 10th NCAA Division III national championship, and last under head coach Jeff Swenson '79, now Augsburg's athletic director. Swenson earned NWCA Division III National Coach of the Year honors for the sixth time in his career. Nine Auggies earned All-American honors, led by 165-pounder Marcus LeVesseur, who became the only NCAA Division III wrestler ever to earn four national titles and just the second collegiate wrestler in history to finish a career unbeaten and untied, as he finished 155-0 in his career. Quincy Osborn (141 pounds) and Jeremy Anderson (157 pounds) also won national titles for the Auggies, and joined Jafari Vanier (second, 133), Seth Flodeen (second, 125), Jared Evans (fourth, 149), Robbie Goteau (fifth, 174), Andrew Neumann (fifth, heavyweight) and Wally O'Connor (eighth, 197) as All-Americans. The Auggies finished 14-1 in duals in the 2006-07 season and qualified wrestlers in all 10 weight classes to the national tournament, winning the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, with George Lynaugh (184) joining the other All-Americans at the national meet. Augsburg won nine of the 10 individual weight-class titles at the regional.
Thursday's dual will also include a "Takedown Cancer" recognition prior to the dual, honoring Donny Wichmann '89 in his fight against cancer. Wichmann was a three-time MIAC champion in his Augsburg career and earned All-American honors in 1989 with a fourth-place finish at 150 pounds at the Division III national meet. An Augsburg co-Senior Honor Athlete in 1989, he later served as an assistant coach for the Auggies for 19 seasons (1990-2007, 2008-09), and was inducted into the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
For more information on Thursday's events, contact the Augsburg Athletic Department office at 612-330-1249.