FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Claiming three champions and 11 place-winners, Augsburg finished in second place at the competitive Citrus Invitational, held on Thursday and Friday.
As a team, Division III Augsburg finished with 149.5 points, second to Division II Upper Iowa’s 159 points. The 16-team tournament featured five teams ranked in the top 30 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national rankings — No. 7 Augsburg (second place), No. 5 Cornell (third place), No. 6 Saint John’s (fourth place), No. 24 Mount Union (fifth place) and No. 26 Ohio Northern (seventh place). Five other NCAA Division III programs were also in the field, along with three NCAA Division II programs and three club programs.
According to Augsburg head coach Mark Matzek, the tournament provided a solid tuneup for his team, as it prepares for the NWCA Division III National Duals, to be held Jan. 7-8 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill.
|Citrus Invitational Team Standings|
|4||Saint John’s (Minn.)||115.5|
|5||Mount Union (Ohio)||107.5|
|9||Liberty (club team)||84.5|
|12||New York University||46|
|T14||Case Western Reserve||12.5|
|T14||Central Florida (club team)||12.5|
|16||Florida Gulf Coast (club team)||6.5|
|• Complete brackets|
“I am very impressed with this team and how they performed,” Matzek said. “To a man, they fought hard in every position and never quit. This drive and intensity enabled us to beat the No. 5-ranked team in the nation by 25 points and the No. 6-ranked team in the nation by 34 points. This tournament has helped us get ready for the National Duals.”
Tony Valek continued his unbeaten campaign with a sweep of the 149-pound weight class, scoring three pins and two major decisions en route to the title.
The top-ranked wrestler in the national rankings at 149, Valek scored an 8-0 win against Saint John’s Ryan Arne in the final. Valek is now 18-0 on the season, with 16 of his 18 wins coming in bonus-point fashion.
“Tony once again had a good tournament. He is focused and driven for a national title this year,” Matzek said.
At heavyweight, Chad Johnson improved to 16-1 on the season with his weight-class title, scoring a 9-3 victory against James De La Riva of Division II North Carolina-Pembroke in the final. Johnson, the No. 2-ranked wrestler nationally at heavyweight, scored a first-period pin and two major-decision wins en route to the title.
“Chad was an animal this week. He impresses people every time he steps on the mat because of how hard he wrestles,” Matzek said.
At 141, Will Keeter won his championship with a strong performance, winning all five of his matches. The No. 6-ranked wrestler nationally at 141, Keeter reached the final with three bonus-point wins — a technical fall and two major decisions — then scored a 2-0 win against No. 9-ranked Josh Malave of Mount Union (Ohio) in the final. Keeter outscored his opponents by a 55-3 margin at the tournament.
“Will has come so far in one year and that is a great testament to his work ethic,” Matzek said.
Tom Kuehn bounced back from a loss in the semifinals with four wins on Friday, including a 7-6 win against No. 9-ranked Chad Henle of St. John’s, to place third at 133 pounds. Teammate Boyd Suparat placed fourth at 133.
“Tom’s performance was incredible this week. The tenacity he has shown in his early career has pushed him to beat a returning All-American,” Matzek said.
At 141, Jake Saatzer placed fourth, as did Justin Bowland at 174. Josh Kohler placed sixth at 174.
“Josh and Justin both ran into a nationally ranked opponent from NYU [No. 8 Gregg Martino] whom they couldn’t get past. They both wrestled hard this week,” Matzek said.
Brad Baus, ranked No. 6 nationally at 197, finished in sixth place, going 3-1 in the tournament.
“Brad was caught in a tough situation in his semifinals match and fought hard to come back, but couldn’t make up the points. I was impressed with his never-give-up attitude,” Matzek said.
Chad Bartschenfeld claimed an eighth-place finish at 125 for the Auggies, and Zach Enrico bounced back with three consecutive wins to close his tournament with a ninth-place finish at 157.
“Chad did a lot of good things at this tournament and continues to improve,” Matzek said. “The tournament didn’t go as planned for Zach, but he never quit fighting. This fight is what makes him a dangerous competitor.”
The tournament also marked the return of two-time national runner-up Orlando Ponce to the Auggie lineup at 165 pounds. Joining the Auggies for his final semester of competition, Ponce won his first three matches at the tournament, including two pins and a 13-7 win against Nick Schuler of St. John’s, the No. 8-ranked wrestler nationally in the weight class.
“The team is excited to have Orlando back training with them. He brings another whole level of intensity to the room,” Matzek said.