The final Brute-Adidas National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III rankings show Wartburg, Ithaca College, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Augsburg College and Coe College leading the pack.

Wartburg, after winning DIII team titles in 2008 and 2009, finished a distant third last March, 36 points behind rival Augsburg. UW-La Crosse challenged the Auggies for top honors in 2010, crowning three champions but falling 10 points short of the program’s first championship.

I know what we’re capable of. We need to go out and perform well and use our home-field advantage and good things will happen.
-- UWL coach Dave Malecek to the La Crosse Tribune

When wrestling commences on Friday at the 38th Division III Championships, UW-La Crosse – with a home crowd on its side – will try and do something no program other than Wartburg or Augsburg has been able to do since 1995 - raise the team trophy. Ithaca edged Wartburg by two points at the ’94 championships.

“I’m not throwing any big predictions out there,” UWL head coach Dave Malecek told the La Crosse Tribune. “I know what we’re capable of. We need to go out and perform well and use our homefield advantage and good things will happen.”

The Knights qualified all 10 wrestlers for the tournament. Ithaca and UWL will each have eight in the bracket. Defending champion Augsburg will suit up just five.

“This eight is a group of guys that believe in the mission we’re on,” Malecek added, “which is to perform the very best we can at the national tournament. We’ve just got to take care of ourselves. Last year, we had seven and Augsburg, Wartburg and Coe all had 10, and we came close to winning.”

Wartburg dominated the field at the IIAC Championships, scoring 208 points. Jim Miller’s squad packs a powerful punch led by defending champion Byron Tate, who is 38-1 heading to Wisconsin.

“It’s tremendous what this team accomplished,” said Miller after the IIAC tournament. “To finish the way we did was especially good with seven champs and then to have Byron and John (Helgerson) wrestle so well to wrap it up. We still have some big goals in mind with these 10 national qualifiers, and we need to get some work done towards meeting those goals.”

Miller’s troops also include: Mark Kist (28-6 at 125); Thomas Mirocha (28-4 at 133); Carrington Banks (27-2 at 157); Dylan Azinger (24-3 at 184) and Helgerson (38-4 at 285). Senior 141-pounder Matt Kelly is just 9-4 but finished third at the 2010 Championships. Helgerson was a runner-up and Azinger was sixth.

UWL won a record 14th consecutive WIAC championship on Feb. 27.

Bebeto Yewah and Michael Schmitz were both champions in 2010 with Matt Mauseth finishing third. Yewah, a junior from Lansing, Mich., brings a 23-2 record into the 141-bracket winning a championship at 133 last season. Schmitz, also a junior, is 22-5 at 174 pounds. Mauseth, a senior, is 22-9 at 149, and 133-pound sophomore Adam Sheley, just a sophomore, is 25-2. Cory Ferguson (17-7 at 165) finished eighth last March. Only four of the eight entries for UWL are seniors.

Ithaca also packs a powerful punch with Seth Ecker (28-3 at 133), Jeremy Stierly (19-1 at 141), Blaine Woszczak (32-2 at 149) and Derek Brenon (23-1 at 157). Stierly lost in the DIII finals last season with Woszczak taking fourth.

Defending champion Augsburg will have to rely on just five qualifiers, led by Tony Valek (34-5 at 149), Orlando Ponce (31-5 at 157), Zach Molitor (25-3 at 174) and 2009 champion Jared Massey (17-1 at 197). Valek was a finalist in 2010.

Coe could factor into the mix. Reigning 125-pound champion Clayton Rush (31-1) leads seven qualifiers into the weekend.

St. John’s Minga Batsukh is another of the eight returning champions – nine with Massey from 2009 – in the field. Batsukh seeks a third consecutive title, heading into the weekend with a 22-1 record. Teammate Matt Baarson is 24-3 at 165 pounds this season.

Case Western Reserve has just one qualifier, but he is a good one. Junior Isaac Dukes, a junior from Ohio, is 36-2 this season and beat Valek in the 2010 149-pound finals.

Ohio Northern’s Luke Miller, a Pennsylvania native, is 25-4 at 165 pounds. He was the 157-pound champion last season.

Another returning champion is Concordia-Moorhead’s Phil Moenkedick, a senior who is 31-1 this season at 184 pounds.

The DIII Championships hit the mats on Friday.

By the Numbers
59 The number of schools with at least one qualifier
40 Number of wins by Wabash’s Greg Rhoads, the most of any entering the tournament. The 184-pounder is 40-14.
28 Number of states represented in the tournament
21 Number of student-athletes in the field from the state of Iowa
19 Number of student-athletes in the field from the state of Illinois
12 Number of states with one student-athlete in the bracket
12 Number of student-athletes in the field from the state of Wisconsin
11 DIII team titles Augsburg has won since 1991
8 Returning champions in the field
7 DIII team titles Wartburg has won since 1994
5 Number of DIII team titles Brockport State won from 1977-92.
5 Number of DIII team titles the College of New Jersey won from 1979-87.
3 Undefeated wrestlers in the tournament (Elmhurst 285-pounder Mark Corsello, Centenary 133-pounder Will Livingston and 197-pounder Tim Lutke)
3 Number of former champions in the 149-pound bracket (Case Western’s Issac Dukes, St. John’s Minga Batsukh and UW-La Crosse’s Matt Mauseth)
2 Champions from the 2009 season in the field (Mauseth and Augsburg 197-pounder Jared Massey)
1 Number of schools with 10 qualifiers (Wartburg)
0 Number of wrestlers with a less than .500 winning percentage

Related

Full qualifiers list

Qualifiers by school

Championship brackets