Feb. 5, 2010

Courtesy of Augsburg Athletics

For the second straight time in a wrestling battle between the top two teams in NCAA Division III wrestling, Augsburg College's Zach Molitor (JR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS) came through big again.

Molitor's 11-2, major-decision victory at 174 pounds proved to be the difference in the match, as top-ranked Augsburg scored a 16-15, dual-meet win over No. 2-ranked Wartburg College at Wartburg's Levick Arena on Thursday night.

Tied at 2-2 late in the second period, Molitor countered a shot by Wartburg's Dylan Azinger (JR, DeWitt, Iowa/Central HS) and claimed a takedown, quickly converting it to a three-point near-fall, which put him ahead 7-2. An escape, takedown and riding-time point gave Molitor, the No. 3-ranked wrestler nationally in his weight class, the 11-2 major decision and bonus-point victory for his team.

With the win, the No. 1-ranked Auggies improved to 11-0 in dual meets this season, while Wartburg dropped to 15-2 in dual meets -- the Knights' only dual losses this season coming to the Auggies. With its fourth straight dual victory over the Knights, Augsburg improved to 15-9 in the all-time series between the two small-college wrestling powers.

The close meeting was similar to the last time the teams met, in the finals of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III National Duals on Jan. 10 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Like Thursday's match, both teams won five bouts, but Molitor proved to be the difference in both duals. In the Jan. 10 dual, it was a 3:52 pin of Azinger that gave the Auggies an 18-15 team win, while the major-decision was enough for Molitor and the Auggies in the 16-15 win on Thursday.

Thursday's dual marked the eighth time that Augsburg and Wartburg have met twice in dual meets in a single season, with Augsburg claiming a sweep for the fourth time (2001-02, 2004-05, 2008-09, 2009-10). Wartburg has swept the series three times (2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06), with the teams splitting the series in the 2006-07 season.

Since 1989-90, the Auggies are now 249-21 against opponents from Divisions II and III, losing just 16 matches to non-Division I teams since the 1995-96 campaign. Against strictly Division III opponents, Augsburg is now 250-23 since the 1979-80 season and 174-13 since the 1989-90 season.

The two teams have dominated NCAA Division III wrestling over the last two decades. Augsburg has won 10 national championships in the last 19 seasons, while Wartburg has won seven national titles. The teams have held possession of the Division III national crown every year since 1995.

The Auggies' Jared Massey (JR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) improved to 17-0 on the season with a 5-3 win over the Knights' Byron Tate (SO, Clinton, Iowa) at 197. The defending national champion and top-ranked wrestler at 197, Massey scored two takedowns in the final 51 seconds to break a 1-1 tie and eventually score the victory. In his two seasons at Augsburg, Massey is now 47-1, and is 52-3 in his collegiate career.

Augsburg scored three wins in the first four matches to build a 9-3 lead. At 133, No. 4-ranked Paul Bjorkstrand (SR, Burnsville, Minn.), ranked No. 4 nationally, claimed a 5-2 win over Sean White (SR, Grand Junction, Colo./Central HS) to improve to 27-7 on the season.

At 141, Jafari Vanier (SR, Minneapolis, Minn./Bloomington Kennedy HS), the No. 5-ranked wrestler nationally, used three takedowns to hold off Matt Kelly (SR, Dubuque, Iowa/Hempstead HS), the No. 8 wrestler at 133, 6-5. Vanier is now 8-4 on the season.

At 149, No. 2-ranked Tony Valek (SO, Belle Plaine, Minn./Scott West) returned to the Auggie lineup and scored a 7-2 win over No. 6-ranked Jacob Groth (JR, Marshalltown, Iowa), scoring reversals in both the second and third periods to pull away. Valek is now 23-4 on the season.

Wartburg scored the other two meetings of ranked wrestlers. At 157, No. 9-ranked Adam Weber (JR, Gilbertville, Iowa/Don Bosco HS) scored an 8-6 win over Augsburg's No. 6-ranked Jason Adams (SR, Coon Rapids, Minn.), and at 165, top-ranked Carrington Banks (JR, Stockbridge, Ga.) scored a 4-1 win over Augsburg's No. 6-ranked Orlando Ponce (JR, Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes HS).

The Knights' No. 2-ranked Mark Kist (JR, Eagle Grove, Iowa) scored a 3-1 win over Augsburg's Josh Roberts (FY, Grand Forks, N.D./Central HS) at 125; No. 7 Todd Becker (JR, Gilbertville, Iowa/Don Bosco HS) scored a 3-1 win over Augsburg's Brad Baus (SO, Mukwonago, Wis.); and at heavyweight, Wartburg's David Wyper (SR, Perrysburg, Ohio) scored a 6-1 win over Augsburg's No. 8-ranked Andy Witzel (SR, Fulda, Minn.).

Augsburg returns to action on Saturday (2/8) at 9 a.m. at the Wisconsin-Eau Claire Invitational.