Augsburg wrestling team to be honored at White House on Sept 8

By Don Stoner | Sept. 02, 2005, 12 a.m. (ET)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The nine-time NCAA Division III national champion Augsburg College wrestling team has been invited to meet with President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington, D.C., next Thursday (9/8), college officials have announced.

Nine wrestlers from the 2005 NCAA Division III national championship squad will be honored by the President during a Thursday afternoon ceremony, along with members of the coaching staff and Augsburg President Dr. William V. Frame.

It is the first time that an Augsburg team has ever been honored at the White House, and it is just the second time a national championship college wrestling team has ever been honored by the President, said Augsburg associate head coach Sam Barber. The 2001 University of Minnesota Division I national championship team was the first college wrestling team to receive the White House honor.

Wrestlers attending will be nine of the 10 All-Americans from the 2005 team -- national champions Marcus LeVesseur (157 pounds), Mark Matzek (133 pounds) and Joe Moon (174 pounds); national runners-up Jamell Tidwell (141 pounds) and Ryan Valek (165 pounds); and All-Americans Brad Tupa (184 pounds), Justin Sorensen (197 pounds), Jared Evans (149 pounds) and Mark Simmonds (heavyweight). The lone 2005 Auggie All-American unable to attend the White House ceremony is 125-pound national champion Matt Shankey, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army. Also being honored will be Augsburg head coach Jeff Swenson, associate head coach Barber and assistant coaches Donny Wichmann and Scott Whirley.

The White House ceremony was arranged after meetings between Augsburg coaches and U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a former wrestler and wrestling coach. Hastert was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., in 2000.

In addition to the ceremony and tour of the White House on Thursday, the Augsburg contingent will also tour the U.S. Capitol as guests of Hastert. The team will fly to Washington on Wednesday and return to Minneapolis on Friday.

Over the last three decades, Augsburg has established itself as a national power in small-college wrestling. Augsburg won its ninth NCAA Division III wrestling national championship in the last 15 years in 2005, claiming 10 All-Americans, four individual national champions and two national runners-up. The Auggies finished 14-1 in dual meets in the 2004-05 season, while also claiming the NWCA Division III National Duals title for the second time in the tournament's four-year history.

The nine team national titles is an NCAA Division III national record. Augsburg has had top-two national finishes in 15 of the last 16 years, top-four national finishes the last 17 seasons in a row (the only NCAA wrestling program, regardless of division, that can make that claim) and top-20 national finishes every year since 1971.

Swenson, who is entering his 24th season as Augsburg's head coach in 2005-06, has produced a 302-40 career dual-meet record with the Auggies. He has coached 143 All-Americans, including 36 individual national champions.

Academically, Augsburg finished in the top 10 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association's Scholar All-America team program in 2004-05, finishing sixth among more than 100 NCAA Division III wrestling institutions with a 3.331 team grade-point-average. Augsburg is the only school in NCAA Division III wrestling to finish in the top 10 both in competition on the mat and in the academic team competition in each of the eight years that the NWCA has awarded an academic team national championship.

Augsburg had eight NWCA Scholar All-Americans in 2004-05, bringing to a national-record 89 the number of NWCA Scholar All-Americans in school history. Augsburg has had at least three Scholar All-Americans every year since 1993, and has had 66 athletes honored since 1997.

In addition, two Auggies, Matzek and Valek, were named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America College Division Men's At-Large Team in 2005. Four Augsburg student-athletes were named to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America teams by CoSIDA this school year, the most in a single year in school history. Since 1981, Augsburg student-athletes have earned 17 Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA.