Former Augsburg wrestler, coach Donny Wichmann passes away

Donny Wichmann

Donny Wichmann, champion wrestler and assistant coach at Augsburg University who only recently was announced for induction into the National Wrestling Coaches Association NCAA Division III Hall of Fame, passed away Tuesday at age 53.

For the past four years, Wichmann had been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

A memorial service and celebration of Wichmann's life will be held on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Si Melby Hall on the Augsburg campus at 715 23rd Ave South in Minneapolis.

The Augsburg wrestling program posted this message on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon:

"We are sad to share that we have lost an amazing athlete, coach and man. We are so grateful for all that Donny Wichmann has done for the Augsburg community and our wrestling program. He will forever be an Auggie and we will miss him tremendously. Thank you, Donny; rest peacefully ❤️"

Born in Marshall, Minn., Wichmann was a three-time Minnesota state high school tournament qualifier and a third-place finisher at 119 pounds in 1984. However, it was at Augsburg that Wichmann truly made a name for himself as a wrestler and member of the Auggie coaching staff.

Donny Wichmann was a three-time MIAC champion and 1989 All-American

Considered one of the top middleweight wrestlers in Augsburg history, Wichmann won 137 matches in his Auggie career, claiming three MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) individual titles -- 1986 and 1987 at 142 pounds, and 1989 at 150 pounds -- while winning MIAC Tournament Most Valuable Wrestler honors in both 1987 and 1989, and the most falls award in 1987. Wichmann earned All-American honors with a fourth-place finish at 150 pounds in the 1989 NCAA Division III National Championships, and was instrumental in helping the Auggies place third in the team standings at the NCAAs. For these accomplishments, Wichmann was named an Augsburg co-Honor Athlete in 1989. That same year, Wichmann earned his bachelor's degree from Augsburg, having majored in marketing and management.

After completing his on-the-mat career, Wichmann served as an Augsburg men's wrestling assistant coach for 19 seasons, first under head coach Jeff Swenson from 1989-2007, then for head coach Mark Matzek from 2008-09. With Wichmann on staff, the Auggies won 10 NCAA Division III national titles, while finishing second seven times, third once and fourth once ... the beginning of the Augsburg wrestling dynasty. In addition, during Wichmann's tenure, the Auggies could claim 134 Division III All-Americans and 34 individual national champions.

Incredibly, that nearly quarter-century relationship between Donny Wichmann and Augsburg may have been cut short after only two years as a wrestler ... if it hadn't been for Jeff Swenson.

Here's how InterMat owner and senior editor Andrew Hipps described the situation in a November 2015 profile of Wichmann which was written not long after Wichmann's cancer diagnosis:

"Donny won a conference championship as a sophomore in 1986. But that spring he was ready to leave Augsburg. The program had fallen on hard times. Augsburg went from an NCAA runner-up finish in 1984 to 16th place in 1986.

"I was just going to leave Augsburg, leave wrestling and go to Arizona State, go to school down there and enjoy the nice weather," said Donny.

"Around that time Swenson was getting calls about returning to Augsburg to become the head wrestling coach again.

"Swenson, while weighing his decision, met with Donny.

"I told Donny if he stayed with the program that I was going to come back as the head coach," said Swenson, a national champion wrestler at Augsburg in 1979. "That's the kind of respect that I had for Donny."

"Both Donny Wichmann and Jeff Swenson made the decision to return to Augsburg.

"I knew that he was the glue that I needed in order to come back and lead the Augsburg wrestling program after I had left it after my first four years," said Swenson. "It was always a special relationship."

For his accomplishments and contributions to the success of the Auggie mat program, Wichmann had earned significant honors in the past decade. He was welcomed into the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. Just last year, Wichmann was presented with the State Medal of Courage Award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter at a ceremony in Austin, Minn. Less than two weeks ago, it was announced that Wichmann would be inducted as a member of the Class of 2019 of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame. He will be welcomed posthumously during a ceremony on Aug. 3 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition to his involvement with Augsburg wrestling, Wichmann owned his own wrestling equipment and apparel company, DW Wrestling Products, and worked for Gopher Stage Lighting, a lighting equipment supplier in Minneapolis.

Wichmann leaves behind a wife, Mindy, who he married in 2000.

Andrew Hipps offered this tribute to Donny Wichmann on Facebook Wednesday:

"Donny Wichmann, who was recently inducted into the NCAA Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame, passed away last night. He was such a wonderful person who made the world a better place. I first met him when I was a kid. He was this cheerful, super friendly guy selling gear at youth wrestling tournaments. Always had a huge smile on his face. Then later he coached my brother Jeremy on the Augsburg wrestling team. Donny's impact will be felt for years to come. I saved a voicemail from him that he left me in 2015 after I wrote an article on him. He ended the voicemail with, 'Anything I can do for you, you let me know.' He meant it. That's the kind of person Donny was."


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