With this announcement, Augsburg will become the first college in Minnesota to sponsor a women's varsity wrestling program.
The new women's program will be the 22nd varsity program to join the roster at the NCAA Division III school, and the 12th sport for women, joining the pioneering tradition at Augsburg as the first school in the Midwest to introduce a women's ice hockey team (in 1995), and home to Minnesota's first women's varsity lacrosse team (in 2014).
Max Mejia brings impressive experience in coaching girls' and women's wrestling to the new Augsburg women's mat program. A 2015 graduate of Harvard University, Mejia most recently has served as Women's and Developmental Coach at the Sunkist Kids Regional Training Center in Tempe, Ariz. for the past three years. He also serves as head coach and women's coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy. In recent years at the Sunkist Kids RTC and Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy, Mejia has helped coach a World Team Trials champion and another finalist, two senior national team members, a U.S. Open champion, finalist and placewinner, and four Arizona high school state champions.
In addition to his work with Sunkist Kids, Mejia also serves as head coach for the Chandler High School girls' wrestling team in his hometown of Chandler, Ariz., which placed third in the inaugural Arizona state tournament this year with three qualifiers and one state titlist. He also serves as women's director for Arizona USA Wrestling and as a volunteer coach for USA Wrestling, serving as the U15 Pan American Games women's team coach that won the title in Villahermosa, Mexico in 2018.
While at Harvard, Mejia earned three varsity letters as a member of the Crimson wrestling program. As a high school wrestler, he was an Arizona state champion and three-time state finalist, while also earning Fargo All-American and FILA Cadet All-American honors.
"I am excited and honored to be selected as the first women's wrestling coach," said Mejia. "Augsburg is an ideal place to begin a women's wrestling program. First and foremost, the women will receive a quality education. The administration and I look forward to building a program with women of great character that serve as leaders in the Augsburg and wrestling communities. The tradition of excellence in wrestling has been set by the men's team winning 13 national titles. We will strive for excellence on and off the mat. Go Auggies!"
In announcing the new women's wrestling program, Augsburg President Dr. Paul Pribbenow said, "I am proud that our outstanding intercollegiate athletics program will once again set a new standard for offering competition opportunities for women. Women's wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and it is especially fitting that Augsburg -- with its nationally recognized men's wresting program -- will join this movement. I look forward to our women's wrestling program recruiting top-notch student-athletes from across the country and competing at the highest level."
Currently, 46 colleges and universities in the United States sponsor women's wrestling on the varsity level, with another 14, including Augsburg, planning to add the sport within the next two years, according to the Augsburg announcement. Most are members of the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association, which administers the sport while it awaits official status by national collegiate organizations. Teams compete in freestyle formats in 10 weight classes, ranging from 101 to 191 pounds.
Seven NCAA Division III schools -- Adrian (Mich.), Ferrum (Va.), Lakeland (Wis.), MacMurray (Ill.), Pacific (Ore.), Schreiner (Texas) and Westminster (Mo.) -- currently offer women's wrestling on the varsity level, with Delaware Valley (Pa.), Fontbonne (Mo.), North Central (Ill.), Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Augsburg adding the sport in 2019.
Since Augsburg launched its men's wrestling program in 1949, the school has been synonymous with excellence on the mat. Just last month, Augsburg won its 13th team title at the 2019 NCAA Division III national wrestling championships. Augsburg has earned 56 individual national champions (52 NCAA, 4 NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and 251 All-Americans (213 NCAA, 38 NAIA) in its intercollegiate men's wrestling history.
Augsburg University is a private, four-year university located in Minneapolis. Founded in 1869, Augsburg has an enrollment of approximately 3,800 students.