Lance Benick scores nearfall points (Photo/Don Stoner, Augsburg University)
ROANOKE, Va. -- Claiming seven All-Americans, including six in national title contention, the Augsburg University wrestling team took a commanding lead at the NCAA Division III National Championships on Friday at the Berglund Center. Augsburg leads with 71.5 points, outpacing second-place Loras (Iowa) by 29 points.
TOP 10 TEAM SCORES AFTER FRIDAY'S ACTION: 1. Augsburg (Minn.) 71.5; 2. Loras (Iowa) 42.5; 3. Wartburg (Iowa) 36.5; 4. Ithaca (N.Y.) 34.0; 5t. Johnson & Wales (R.I.) 33.5; 5t. Mount Union (Ohio) 33.5; 7. Wisconsin-Whitewater 33.0; 8. Wabash (Ind.) 30.0; 9. Millikin (Ill.) 26.0; 10. College of New Jersey 25.0.
LOCATION: Berglund Center, Roanoke, Va.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Twelve-time Division III national champion Augsburg dominated in its first day of competition at the national tournament, winning 15 of 20 matches with six pins and four major decisions. With 71.5 points, the Auggies hold a 29-point lead over second-place Loras (Iowa), which has 42.5 points. Defending national champion Wartburg (Iowa) has 36.5 points, and six teams are within four points of each other for fourth place.
• It marks the 13th time that Augsburg has recorded seven or more All-Americans in its NCAA national tournament history, and the first time since its last national title in 2015.
• Defending 165-pound national champion Lucas Jeske (JR, St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS) extended his winning streak to 29 straight matches with two convincing wins on the day, including a 1:02 pin of Austin Whitney of Ithaca (N.Y.) in the quarterfinals, to earn his third All-America honor. Jeske converted an impressive throw into his fifth pin of the season and 35th of his career. With a 10-2 major decision over Sam Gross of John Carroll (Ohio) earlier in the day, Jeske is now 19-0 this season and 84-9 in his career.
• David Flynn (JR, Jordan, Minn./Jordan HS (Scott West)) claimed his second All-America honor at 141 pounds with a pin and decision, improving to 26-5 on the season and 99-30 in his collegiate career (71-16 at Augsburg). After claiming a 3:41 pin of Jordan Napier of Manchester (Ind.) in his opening match, No. 8-seed Flynn broke a 4-4 tie with the top seed, Troy Stanich of Stevens Tech (N.Y.), with an escape with 1:03 left in his quarterfinal match, then after an video challenge overturned a takedown with 35 seconds left, he scored a takedown with 10 seconds left to score a 7-4 win to advance to Saturday's semifinals.
• Ryan Epps (JR, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS), the defending national champion at 157, improved to 36-3 on the season with two victories -- a 5-1 decision over JT Beirne of The College of New Jersey in his opener and a 2-0 win over Keone Derain of Elmhurst (Ill.) in the quarterfinals. Claiming an escape in the second period, Epps was able to ride Derain for the entire third period to pick up the riding time bonus point. Epps, the No. 2 seed in the field at 157, is now 110-11 in his career and earned his second career All-America honor.
• At 197, No. 3 seed Lance Benick (SO, Scandia, Minn./Totino-Grace HS) scored two wins by major decision to earn his first career All-America honor. After a 14-4 win over Gage Gladysz of Thiel (Pa.) in his opener, he used a strong third period to claim his second win over Michael DiNardo of Johnson & Wales (R.I.) of the season, a 14-2 quarterfinal triumph. Leading 5-1 after a pair of second-period takedowns, Benick countered a DiNardo throw attempt with one of his own, putting DiNardo to his back for a takedown and four-point near-fall. Another takedown and 1:08 riding time gave Benick the convincing win, as he improved to 27-3 on the season.
• Victor Gliva (JR, Farmington, Minn./Farmington HS), seeded No. 3 at 125 pounds, needed overtime to gain his second All-America honor, but made the most of the extra session, scoring a takedown with 34 seconds left and converting it into a four-point near-fall for a 7-1 quarterfinal victory over Peter Del Gallo of Southern Maine. Combined with a 1:14 pin of Samuel Braswell of Averett (Va.) in his opener, Gliva is now 27-5 on the season and 88-20 in his career, as a three-time national tournament qualifier.
• At 149, Alex Wilson (SR, Oak Grove, Minn./St. Francis HS) earned his second career All-America honor with a 4-3 victory over Sean Sax of Westminster (Mo.) in the quarterfinals. He claimed two takedowns in the first period, then held on in the third period after Sax scored a two-point near-fall in the final minute. Combined with a 6-3 win over Luke Hernandez of Mount Union (Ohio) in his opener, Wilson is now 36-5 on the season and 129-36 in his career.
• Tanner Vassar (JR, Maple Lake, Minn./Maple Lake HS) rallied for his second All-America honor in the 174-pound wrestlebacks. After a 10-4 win over Jacob Krakow of Loras (Iowa) in his opener, Vassar dropped an 8-4 decision to defending national champion Jairod James of Mount Union (Ohio) in the quarterfinals. But Vassar bounced back with a strong 9-1 major decision over Jordan Juliano of Centenary (N.J.), converting three takedowns and 2:32 of riding time to improve to 24-7 on the season and 91-27 in his career.
• Senior Sam Bennyhoff (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS) saw his collegiate career end in the evening session with a pair of losses. After a 5:34 pin of Russell Benson of Delaware Valley (Pa.) in his opening match, Bennyhoff fell victim to a second-period takedown and four-point near-fall combination by Ben Vosters of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the quarterfinals, as Vosters eventually turned a 6-1 deficit into a 13-6 victory. In the wrestlebacks, Bennyhoff stayed close with Levin Englman of Ferrum (Va.), but could not overcome a third-period reversal and takedown in a 9-7 loss. Last year's national runner-up at 133 and a four-time national tournament qualifier, Bennyhoff finished his senior season at 25-6 this season and his career at 118-28.
• Solomon Nielsen (SO, Luverne, Minn./Luverne HS) scored two dramatic pins in the opening round, but dropped two matches in the evening session to end his season at 28-9 in his first national tournament appearance. He suffered a 9-3 defeat at the hands of top-seed Dylan Roth of Heidelberg (Ohio) in the quarterfinals, then was eliminated with a 7-5 wrestleback loss to Kyle Peisker of Chicago (Ill.). Nielsen trailed 4-0 in the second period and mounted a late comeback with two takedowns in the final 1:24, but could not overcome 2:52 of riding time by Peisker. Nielsen scored a 6:29 pin of Tevin Bailey of Dubuque (Iowa) in a pigtail match, and a 6:50 pin of Jake Paulson of Penn State-Behrend (Pa.) in his first-round match earlier in the day.
• Action will resume on Saturday (3/9) at 10 a.m. (Central time) with championship semifinals, consolation action and matches for third, fifth and seventh places. National championship matches will begin at 6 p.m. (Central time).