‘Battle of the Burgs’ mat dual set for Thursday

MINNEAPOLIS — Augsburg University will celebrate 70 years of wrestling history during its annual “Battle of the Burgs” dual meet with traditional rival Wartburg College (Iowa) on Thursday (1/31) at Si Melby Hall.

The meet, which will start at 7:30 p.m., will pit the Auggies, the top-ranked team in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III national poll, against the No. 3-ranked Knights, winners of the last three NCAA Division III national titles. The annual dual meet features the two squads that have dominated NCAA Division III wrestling for the past three decades. Since 1995, every Division III national title has rested at either Augsburg or Wartburg. The Auggies have won 12 national titles since 1991 and the Knights have won 14 national titles since 1996, including seven of the last eight championships.

Since 2015, this dual meet has also featured the “Swens/Milboy Belt” traveling trophy. The trophy is named for the two coaches who built the Lutheran colleges to national prominence in small-college wrestling — Augsburg’s Jeff Swenson (1980-84, 1986-2007) and Wartburg’s Jim Miller (1991-2013). Both coaches led their teams to 10 NCAA Division III national titles during their careers.

Thursday’s meet will also include a pre-match celebration of the 70th anniversary of Augsburg’s wrestling program. A reception will begin at 5 p.m. in the upper level of the Kennedy Center, including a preview of the match with Augsburg coaches and remarks from dignitaries. During the halftime break of the Augsburg-Wartburg dual, there will be a “Takedown Cancer” fundraiser featuring Augsburg All-American and former assistant coach Donny Wichmann ’89. A post-match social will follow in the upper level of the Kennedy Center (Register for the 70th anniversary celebration by clicking here).

Prior to the Augsburg-Wartburg dual, there will be a high school dual pitting Waverly-Shell Rock (Iowa) against Scott West (Jordan/Belle Plaine, Minn.) at 5:30 p.m. (UPDATE – Waverly-Shell Rock may not make the trip because of the weather.)

Augsburg has eight wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes, while Wartburg has seven top-10 wrestlers, and there could be meetings of ranked wrestlers in seven of the 10 bouts in Thursday’s dual. One of the highlight matches could come at 157 pounds, where two defending national champions could meet. Augsburg’s Ryan Epps (JR, Cannon Falls, Minn./Cannon Falls HS), the defending 157-pound titlist, will face defending 149-pound titlist Cross Cannone of Wartburg, who has moved up a weight class this season. Cannone is currently ranked No. 1 at 157, while Epps is ranked No. 2.

Augsburg’s Lucas Jeske (JR, St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville HS), the defending national champion at 165, is ranked No. 1 in his weight class, while defending 133-pound national champion Brock Rathbun of Wartburg is ranked No. 1 in his class. Rathbun will face Augsburg’s No. 4-ranked Sam Bennyhoff (SR, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS) in a rematch of last year’s national championship bout. The two wrestlers met three times last season, with Rathbun winning twice.

Augsburg is 10-0 in dual meets this season, while Wartburg is 14-1.

Wartburg leads the all-time series with Wartburg by an 19-16 margin. The teams split their two meetings last season, with Augsburg winning in the finals of the 2018 NWCA Division III National Duals and Wartburg winning in the Battle of the Burgs dual in Waverly, Iowa.

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