Augustana wrestling saw four wrestlers compete in the 2023 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, with one wrestler taking home All-American honors.
Sophomore Jaxson Rohman at 125 pounds, senior Hunter Burnett at 141 pounds, senior Kolby Kost at 174 pounds and senior Cade Mueller at 184 pounds made the trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 10-11 to compete. Rohman stood out among his teammates, competing for his victories at only his second national championship.
Burnett, who faced an injury earlier this season, and Mueller were unable to secure a win in their two matches. Kost won his first match against Cole Casilio of Gannon University by a 12-1 major decision. However, he fell short in his next two matches against the No.1 and No. 2 overall seeds respectively.
“We got [Burnett] back late, so we kind of knew he wasn’t quite match-ready for a trip like this, but at the same time, he’s a tough kid,” head coach Jason Reitmeier said. “He competed really well. I just don’t think he had enough mat time going in. Kolby had kind of a crappy draw. He beats up the first kid and then he has the No. 1 in the nation and defending national champion. Then, of course, the second seed gets beat and he has to face him on the back side.”
Rohman turned heads over the course of the tournament. Rohman defeated Gannon’s Jose Diaz in his first-round matchup by an 8-3 decision. He then earned All-American honors by taking down Shane Corrigan of University of Wisconsin-Parkside 6-4.
On day two, Rohman won his biggest match of the season, taking down the two-time defending champion Cole Laya of West Liberty University by a 4-3 decision. Rohman would go on to fall in the national championship match, getting taken down in the final 10 seconds in what was a 2-2 match.
“Going into it, I knew [Laya] was one of the best in the country,” Rohman said. “He’s won it the past two years. I knew if I stayed in my offense and pushed the pace, I could get him to lay down and eventually get the win.”
Rohman was able to get a takedown with a move he said he’s been “holding in [his] back pocket” for a couple of years. The move is called a gator roll or a twister, and Rohman said it involves getting an opponent in a headlock and then rolling.
As a sophomore, this was only Rohman’s second trip to the national championships and his first All-American honors. According to assistant coach Chism Fink, within 10 minutes of the final match being over, Rohman was already watching the film.
“He’s very quiet, reserved,” Reitmeier said. “He’s very confident, though. He’s got a real confidence about him that I don’t think a lot of people see unless you know him really well. He’s also very bright and does well in school. He likes to put puzzles together. He’ll take 2000-piece puzzles and put them together in two hours, so that tells you the intelligence he has, and that’s kind of how he wrestles. He sees what he’s got to do and puzzles it together.”
With practice starting in a couple of weeks, Rohman will continue to work on his craft on the mat, but the team will be finding new leadership with the senior class departing. Good candidates could come from the three national championship qualifiers that will be returning next season.
“For me, I’d say I kind of lead by example,” Rohman said. “I’m not really vocal in the wrestling room. I kind of just get in and do what I have to do, and hopefully other people can see what I do and can mimic that. I think a couple of guys are going to have to step up and take leadership roles that are going to be vacant.”
Even after a run to the national championship match, Reitmeier is excited to get back to work and see what Rohman can do in the off-season.
“He’s got plenty of areas to improve on,” Reitmeier said. “He’s still super good, but he can get even better. He can and he will. He’s a student of the sport. He will.”
Seth is a graduate student at Augustana University. He currently serves as the sports editor.
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