Reviewing 2010 NCAA Division III Nationals

Updated: October 15, 2010

2010 – NCAA Division III National Championships

Nothing easy about Augsburg’s 11th title

by Kyle Klingman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It is the question Wisconsin-LaCrosse head coach Dave Malacek wants to be asked: What will it take for a team other than Augsburg or Wartburg to win an NCAA team title?

Wisconsin-LaCrosse, ranked first in preseason polls, came within 10.5 points of answering that question this year. The Eagles placed second with three individual champions, the most of any team.

Malacek, a former assistant coach at Wartburg, understands he is coaching against 18 years of history. Since taking over at UW-LaCrosse in 2007, his teams have placed third, second, third, and second.

“We just have to keep getting the right kids and keep training hard and believing in the system we have,” said Malacek. “I knew I was going to get this question and I said this a long time ago, it’s going to take little things. It’s little steps forward.

“I respect both those programs — they’re great programs — but I think you’re seeing LaCrosse take steps forward with three champs. We have the right kids, we’re at a great place, we have alumni, we have great fans. It’s getting there. We just have to have a little more time.”

Second-year Augsburg head coach Mark Matzek, a two-time NCAA champion for the Auggies in 2004 & ’05, didn’t need much time to get his first title as a coach. At 27, Matzek became the youngest Division III coach to win an NCAA title. He was named coach of the year for his efforts.

Matzek also became the first coach other than Jeff Swenson to lead Augsburg to an NCAA team title. This year’s championship was the school’s eleventh, the most in NCAA Division III history.

“The legacy of Augsburg College is more than Jeff Swenson,” said Matzek. “He’s the one that started it. He’s my mentor, there’s no question about that. It’s something about that legacy that Coach Swenson instilled in me, in the assistant coaches, and that we are instilling into our wrestlers to this day.”

Augsburg made some history that it would like to avoid in future NCAA championships too. Only two teams prior to the 2010 championships had won a team national championship without an individual champion. Matzek’s first championship became the third.

Despite sending three wrestlers to the finals and clinching the team title prior to the final session, Augsburg was unable to crown an individual champion. Paul Bjorkstrand (133), Tony Valek (149), and Orlando Ponce (165) lost their finals matches.

Augsburg scored 110.5 team points with eight of its nine wrestlers earning All-American honors.

“It burns,” said Matzek on not winning an individual title. “For sure it does. I wanted nine national finalists. I wanted nine national champions. Our competitors wrestled great matches. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. The effort was there, the attitude was there. It’s just one of those things where sometimes you just don’t get it.”

Two-time defending champions Wartburg placed third after losing four national champions and a runner-up from last year’s team. The Knights qualified all 10 of its wrestlers but lost five opening-round matches.

Wartburg finished the tournament with six All-Americans and one champion. At 197 pounds sophomore Byron Tate upset Augsburg’s Jared Massey, 2-1 TB1 in the semifinals. Massey, a junior, entered the tournament as an undefeated NCAA champion.

“Tate wrestled a great match,” said Matzek of the semifinal match. “He took us out of our game plan and ended up winning it in sudden victory.”

Tate won 8-5 in the finals over returning runner-up Ryan Malo of Williams.

“We did pretty good, not great,” said Wartburg coach Jim Miller. “We needed everybody we had contributing. We didn’t get that done and very few teams did. We needed some early momentum and continue it. It was like we lost momentum right away after the first round.”

Coe College qualified all 10 of its wrestlers and placed fourth for the third consecutive year. The Kohawks had five All-Americans and one NCAA champion. Junior Clayton Rush became the school’s second NCAA champion by dominating the 125-pound bracket.

Rush secured a fall, two major decisions, and a 10-3 semifinal win over defending NCAA champion Jake Oster of Elmhurst. This was Rush’s second appearance in the finals following a second-place finish as a freshman.

Vincent Renaut became the first wrestler in Merchant Marine Academy history to win a national title. Renaut entered the tournament unseeded but won the 165-pound championship with a 7-3 win over Augsburg’s Orlando Ponce in the finals. Renaut was named the outstanding wrestler at the tournament.

Another wrestler who performed above his seed is UW-LaCrosse heavyweight Dan Laurent. Laurent finished his career as a three-time NCAA champion without being seeded first.

The Eagle senior entered his final college tournament as the third seed, defeating fifth-seeded John Helgerson of Wartburg 2-0 in the finals.