AU squashes season

Wresting ends regular season 11-2, prepares to grapple with super region


Sophomore Bailey Neises stares down his No. 6 Upper Iowa opponent during their dual on Feb. 11, where the Vikings lost 22-15. Augustana will head to the NCAA Championships on Feb. 23 in St. Cloud, Minn.

The Augustana University wrestling team is heading into the NCAA Division-2 Super Region 3 tournament in St. Cloud this weekend after a successful season on both individual and squad levels.

The Vikings finished the regular season with an 11-2 overall record and 6-2 conference record, tying for second in the NSIC behind St. Cloud State University, ranked first in the nation.

The team started the year with high expectations league wide, as it was tied for third in the NSIC preseason coaches’ poll and tied for 21st in the NCAA Division-2 preseason poll. 

Senior Aero Amo and sophomore Brandon Carroll were individually ranked in the NCAA Division-2 poll at third in the 184-pound weight class and seventh in the 125-pound weight class respectively. The two wrestlers were the lone national qualifiers of the 2016-2017 season to return for the 2017-2018 season.

Associate head coach Tom Meester, in his twelfth season on the Augustana coaching staff, said the team faltered in matches down the final stretch of the season after starting strong.

“We’re a good team, and I think we showed that for the most part this year, but we didn’t wrestle the best at the end of the year,” Meester said. “We had a loss to Upper Iowa where we didn’t wrestle well and it still came down to the last match, but we couldn’t close it out. Going up against Saint Cloud, there were six matches we could have won, but we only took one of them. So we’ve had some tough breaks in the past couple of weeks.”

Amo, a two-time national qualifier and two-time Super Region 3 champion, finished the season with a 10-2 overall record, remaining undefeated in conference matches. Amo closed the year ranked fifth individually in the NCAA Division-2 rankings for the 184-pound weight class. In 2017, Amo finished fifth at NCAA Division-2 nationals and received All-American honors.

Meester says he has been impressed with Amo’s performance throughout his career, and hopes to see him succeed at this weekend’s tournament.

“Aero was really seconds away from being in the National Championship finals last year—he really is that good,” Meester said.

Amo suffered problems with a herniated disc early on in the season, but was able to bounce back to form.

“He struggled with the injury earlier in the season, which really prevented him from getting going early on,” Meester said. “It was slow going to start, but he’s really been able to overcome that and it hasn’t slowed down. I’m hopeful he can be a three-time national qualifier.”

Due to late season losses, the Vikings fell out of the Division-2 rankings as of Feb. 16, but Meester says the team expects to succeed at the Super Regional despite tough competition.

“We have a handful of guys that are ranked well heading into this weekend’s tournament, and if things go well, some are going to go to the national championships,” Meester said. “The problem is, the region is so tough, that anything can happen. At this stage, you lose and you die. The season is over. We think we put ourselves in a position where some of our guys can avoid that.”

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