Photo: Mike Mingo

The Open Mat NCAA Division III Coach of the Year: Tony Valek

The Open Mat presents awards annually in three categories for each division of college wrestling at the conclusion of the season. Awards are presented for Wrestler of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year.

The Open Mat NCAA Division III Coach of the Year: Tony Valek (Augsburg)

It's no secret that Augsburg and Wartburg have dominated NCAA Division III college wrestling for nearly 30 years. No program outside of the 'Burgs has won a national team title in NCAA Division III wrestling since 1994. Going into the 2022-23 season, 2022 national champion Wartburg was the clear favorite to repeat. The Knights held a No. 1 tournament ranking all season long, from the start of the regular season to the end of the regular season. Augsburg, under the guidance of head coach Tony Valek, showcased its balance by winning the NWCA National Duals title in January, beating Johnson & Wales 35-8 in the championship match. Later that month, Wartburg defeated Augsburg 22-14 in a dual meet in Waverly, Iowa. Despite the setback, Valek kept the Auggies motivated and improving with each competition. On Jan. 29, Augsburg dominated UW-La Crosse, one of the nation's top NCAA Division III wrestling programs, 33-3, winning nine of the 10 matches. The Auggies continued to gain momentum heading into the postseason. At the NCAA Division III Upper Midwest Regional, Augsburg won the team title by 33.5 points over runner-up UW-La Crosse. In addition, the Auggies qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. While Augsburg seemed to be peaking heading into the national tournament, Wartburg remained the prohibitive favorite. The Auggies quickly got on a roll at the NCAAs, going 9-1 in the opening round with four pins, a technical fall and two major decisions. Augsburg continued to build its lead by securing seven All-Americans at the end of their first day to take a 22.5-point lead going into the final day. Augsburg would clinch its 14th national title during the NCAA semifinals and put the finishing touches on it later that night. When the dust settled, Augsburg won the national title by 34.5 points over rival Wartburg. The Auggies crowned a national champion in unseeded Sam Stuhl (141). Tyler Shilson (157) finished as an NCAA runner-up and Tyler Kim (285) placed third. Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann (184) finished fourth, Cooper Willis (165) placed fifth, Seth Goetzinger (174) was seventh and Charlie Stuhl (149) placed eighth. For Tony Valek, it was his first national title in his four seasons as Augsburg's head wrestling coach, and third national championship in his 10 seasons on the coaching staff.