Division III All-Decade Team
This is one man’s opinion on the top wrestler at each weight class for the years 2000-2007. Those dates fit nicely with the new weights, as the first full season with seven pounds added to the previous weights was 1999-2000. Feel free to disagree (and comment), and if I’ve left out any obvious candidates here, please let me know. Also, if a wrestler’s career started before 2000, they are still eligible, and I considered their career before the 1999-2000 season
125 – Zac Weiglein – Wartburg – Finished 1st, 1st, and 3rd; won three IIAC championships. Won the 1999 NCAA title with a broken hand. Bonus points in my book for spending his entire career in DIII.
133 – Mark Matzek – Augsburg – The only repeat champ at this weight in this decade. 129 wins on a tough Augsburg schedule, placing 4th, 1st, and 1st. Probably not the absolute best at this weight, but we’ll get to that guy next.
141 – Jesus Wilson – Upper Iowa – Won titles at 133 and 141. Not your traditional college student as a he placed sixth in the 1993 World Championships before defecting from Cuba the next year. Hinschberger has more titles, but Wilson was a better wrestler who made the Olympic trials final in 2002, taking a match from Eric Guerrero. Watching him in DIII, it was clear how much better he was than everyone else. It’s tough for Hinschberger being one of the few 3x champs, but sharing this weight with a guy like Wilson.
149 – Ben Shane – Wartburg – Won titles in 1998 and 1999, defeating Cagle of Augsburg for his second championship. He beat Cagle when it really mattered, though this was a close call. Ratel of Montclair State is probably third here, just ahead of Pyle from Luther. Shane beat Cagle, Cagle beat Ratel convincingly, and Shane won two titles to one each for the other guys. Pyle did win two himself, but never seemed as dominant as the three I have ahead of him. This was a tough weight to call.
157 – Marcus LeVesseur – Augsburg – A tough weight to call is followed by the easiest. The only four time champ in DIII, he finished his career undefeated to boot. A superb athlete who was rarely out of position. During his career he defeated several DII champs and won the University Freestyle Nationals, beating Tyron Woodley and Keith Gavin on the way to Outstanding Wrestler honors. All extraneous information aside, he was a joy to watch when he really turned it on.
165 – Dominic Dellagatta – Montclair State – May be a controversial pick, but he did win at 157 in 1999 and at 165 in 2000. Another great athlete who may not have been in the greatest shape, he did seem to win when it mattered. Weber of Wheaton was a D1 athlete at D3 school, and South of Luther placed in the Midlands, but I think Dellagatta is the pick, but you might be able to talk me out of it.
174 – Joe Moon – Augsburg – Two titles and a 3rd, and he avenged his loss to Koenig of UW-Stevens Point. He also beat the very talented Aliakseynka of Montclair State in the finals. Seems like a pretty clear cut choice, though Chelf of UW-Lax could thrust himself into this discussion if 2008 is anything like 2007.
184 – Duane Bastress – York – Two time champ who beat a defending two time champ in the finals. York’s first national champ was a good wrestler. In watching him, I was taken with how in control he alway seemed. Even in his dogfight of a match with Carter of Wartburg in 2006, he never panicked, and that was key to his success. He has to be one of the more mentally tough wrestlers I’ve seen.
197 -Akeem Carter – Wartburg – The most accomplished of the champs at this weight, Carter was also a high school NHSCA Senior Nationals champ. Two time champ at 197, coupled with the 2nd place finish at 184 mentioned above, he was very tough, moving down as a senior for the sake of the team, which did win the national title in 2006. Though not really in the competition for best of the decade, it’s worth mentioning Johnson of Delaware Valley and his impressive 2006 tournament with a tech fall followed by three first period pins, including the final in 1:28.
285 – Ryan Allen – UW-La Crosse – The second easiest pick after LeVesseur, Allen won three titles after placing 2nd as a freshman. Built like a basketball player, he was extraordinarily athletic and kept the nearly as good Gillis of Wartburg to only one championship by defeating him three times in the NCAA finals.
Those are just my picks. I’d be interested in any feedback. This is exactly the type of thing where disagreements are welcome.