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2000 MIAC Wrestling Championship
Saturday, Feb. 26, 2000
Hosted by Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
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2000 MIAC Individual Championships Preview:
By Don Stoner, Augsburg SID

Augsburg going for 14th MIAC championship in a row

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Augsburg College will aim to continue a streak of dominance in small-college wrestling at the 52nd annual Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference wrestling championships, set for Saturday (2/26) at 10 a.m. at Concordia College-Moorhead.

Augsburg has won the last 13 MIAC wrestling championships in a row, 23 of the last 25 dating back to the 1975 conference meet, and 27 of the 51 meets in all. Augsburg finished third in 1986 and second in 1981. The Auggies will attempt to win their 14th straight title and duplicate last year's first-ever accomplishment, when the Auggies won all 10 individual weight-class championships en route to a second-place NCAA Division III national finish.

The MIAC meet serves as a qualifier for the NCAA Division III national meet, set for March 3-4 at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. A total of 16 MIAC wrestlers -- the 10 weight-class champions and six wild-cards chosen by conference coaches -- will qualify for the NCAA meet from the conference event.

This year, Augsburg, under 18th-year head coach Jeff Swenson, is again dominant on the national level, ranked No. 1 in the nation and the only school in the country to have nine individuals rated in the national top 10 rankings -- all nine are rated in the top 5. Augsburg is attempting to win an NCAA-record sixth Division III national championship; the Auggies have finished either first or second in nine of the 10 years of the 1990s, an accomplishment only the University of Iowa can match among all NCAA divisions.

Josh Cagle (Sr., Faribault, Minn.) is 35-0 at 149 pounds and could become just the second Auggie wrestler to ever go through a season unbeaten. Other top-ranked wrestlers for the Auggies are Darin Bertram at 125, John Marchette at 133 and Nik Lewandowski at 184. All were conference champions last year. Other returning Augsburg champions include: Justin Baker at 157 (rated fifth nationally), Nick Slack at 174 (fifth), Josh Clausen at 197 (second) and Ben Bauer at heavyweight (second).

St. John's, which took third in last year's conference meet and seventh at last year's national meet led by NCAA champion John Newman, enters the conference meet ranked 14th this season, with several strong seniors for 19th-year head coach John Elton. Brandon Novak, a two-time All-American, is ranked third in the nation at 197; All-American Ryan Tietz is ranked second at 184. Other NCAA qualifiers returning to the conference meet include Jeremy Abfalter at 165 and Mike Timm at 141.

Two-time NCAA qualifier Thor Apland (165) returns to lead St. Olaf in its bid to maintain its second-place finish of a year ago. Two MIAC runner-ups return to aim for championships -- junior John Holm at 174; and junior heavyweight Matt Picchietti.

Host Concordia aims to improve upon its fourth-place finish from last year. Ryan Smith, who finished second last year at 141, returns a weight class higher at 149 for his sophomore campaign at 12-10 overall. Zach Schroeder, a sophomore at 133, is 13-13 overall.

Ryan Willaert of St. Thomas used a true-second victory last year to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time last year. He hopes to return to the NCAAs this year as a senior at 157 pounds. Other underclassmen have been leaders for the Tommies -- freshmen Cha You (133), Mitch Becker (165) and Jon Behnken (HWT) and sophomore Geoff Walerack (141).

Carleton is led by freshman Joel Stark (174), sophomore Cody Brown ( 197) and senior heavyweight Ben Miller.

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