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October 31, 2012

Wrestlers hope to build on last year's success

Jordan Richardson earned NCAA Division III All-American honors in 2011-12 when he finished the year with a 38-11 overall record. He was the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.

There is no hiding the optimism in Eric Juergens' voice when he talks about his Augustana wrestling team's chances for the 2012-13 season. Juergens, who is entering his sixth season as the Vikings head coach, has good reason to be excited as his team is coming off a tremendous 2011-12 campaign.

"This could turn out to be a pretty good year," said Juergens who has fashioned a 31-40 dual meet record in five years but has watched his Vikings go 20-10 over the past two seasons. "For the first time since I have been here every single wrestler in the room is somebody we recruited and that makes a huge difference. We are all on the same page as we continue to make progress."

There is no doubt that the Vikings have made progress during Juergens' tenure. His first season was in 2007-08 and Augustana went 2-9 in dual meets and place fourth in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin and 12th in the NCAA Division III West Regional. Last year the Vikings were 11-4 in dual meets, took second in the CCIW with three individual champions and placed sixth in the West Regional. In addition, his team flirted with the top 25 in the NCAA Division III national rankings and came away with the program's first All-American since 2003 when Jordan Richardson (Grandville HS, Wyoming, Mich.) placed eighth at 174 pounds.

Heading into 2012-13, Juergens can point to 25 returning letter winners, seven of them starters, on his 37-man roster.

"Our roster is bigger and that certainly helps with depth and competition in the room," said Juergens who was a two-time NCAA Division I national champion at the University of Iowa. "I was a little surprised by our success last year and that is a tip of the hat to the kids on the team. They made that happen and are looking for more this season."

The Vikings recent success has caught the attention of the national scene as they are ranked 17th in the NCAA Division III pre-season national ranking according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.


125 - Junior Jacob Scholten (Rockford HS, Grandville, Mich.) is back in the mix after sitting out his sophomore season. He was the Vikings' co-MVP as a freshman when he won the CCIW title at this weight class and posted a 38-8  overall record. He won the NCAA Division III West Regional and his 38 victories are tied for the 20th best single season mark in Augustana's history. He will get backup help from a trio of talented freshmen: Anthony Desanto (St. Joseph HS, Westchester, Ill.), Austin Nusbaum (Sturgis HS, Sturgis, Mich.) and Jimmy Panozzo (Carl Sandburg HS, Orland Park, Ill.).

133 - There will be two freshmen handling things at 133 with Cody Weitzel (Valor Christian HS, Littleton, Colo.) and Justin Smiley (Plainfield North HS, Plainfield, Ill.) currently battling for the starting position.

141 - Freshman Isaiah Schaub (St. Francis HS, Traverse City, Mich.) is a guy who Juergens says "just goes and goes and goes" and he could end up with the starting spot at 141. Sophomores Hector Ruiz (Aurora East HS, Aurora, Ill.) and Zackary Wheeler (Seneca HS, Marseilles, Ill.) along with freshman Kadmiel Smith (Wilton HS, Wilton, Iowa) make this a fairly deep weight class.

149 - Sophomore David Tessiatore (Downers Grove North HS, Downers Grove, Ill.) will move down from 157 pounds where he was 13-21 a year ago. Sophomore Walter Piech (Lincoln-Way East HS, Mokena, Ill.) was injured most of last year but he has great potential. Freshman Ben Deig (Limestone HS, Bartonville, Ill.) and sophomore Thomas Browne (Grayslake HS, Hainesville, Ill.), the regular at 125 a year ago, will be at this weight class as well.

157 - There is plenty of talent at this weight class. Sophomore Alex Bowers (Noblesville HS, Noblesville, Ind.) was 9-9 a year ago and sophomore Kevin Sundberg (Paw Paw HS, Paw Paw, Mich.) finished 8-7. Sophomore Thomas Reyhons (Davenport Assumption HS, Davenport, Iowa) missed last year but could make some noise in 2012-13. Junior Mitch Musgrove (Orion HS, Andover, Ill.) posted a 7-8 mark as a sophomore and freshmen Seth Hardcastle (Arapahoe HS, Centennial, Colo.) and Khaled Almousa (Reavis HS, Burbank, Ill.) will provide plenty of depth.

165 - Sophomores Connor Cummings (Downers Grove North HS, Woodridge, Ill.) and Torey Welch (Valor Christian HS, Littleton, Colo.) both saw significant action a year ago. Cummings was 8-10 while Welch finished 9-9.

174 - Senior Matt Burns (Naperville Central HS, Naperville, Ill.) is coming off a great junior season where he went 28-17, won the CCIW title at 165 and qualified for the NCAA Division III national tournament. Senior Cody Heche (Cary-Grove HS, Cary, Ill.) and sophomore Erik Timko (Geneva HS, Geneva, Ill.) are also available at 174.

184 - Junior Jordan Richardson (Grandville HS, Wyoming, Ill.) started last year at 184 but dropped down to 174 and finished 38-11. He won the CCIW title at 174 and was named the league's Most Outstanding Wrestler and went on to earn NCAA Division III All-American honors. Senior Ian Knepshield (Shady Side HS, Ford City, Penn.) is a veteran who will be a capable backup.

197 - Plenty of bodies here and Juergens is waiting for somebody to take charge of this weight class. Sophomore Seth Whan (Sherrard HS, Viola, Ill.) finished his freshman year with a 12-18 record and senior Matt Regnier (Riverside-Brookfield HS, Riverside, Ill.) was 5-9. Freshmen Frank Hollo (Litchfield HS, Litchfield, Ill.) and Jake Melik (Pleasant Valley HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) and sophomore Steve Monaco (Stagg HS, Hickory Hills, Ill.) should be in the mix as well.

285 - The Vikings have the luxury of three quality wrestlers at this weight class. Junior Abe Duran (East Aurora HS, Aurora, Ill.) was 13-6 last year while sophomore John Schraidt (Riverside-Brookfield HS, Riverside, Ill.) finished 26-9 and sophomore John Seamen (Munster HS, Munster, Ind.) was 16-8.