MINNEAPOLIS — Augsburg University is continuing its tradition of being a pioneer in women’s athletics by creating a varsity women’s wrestling team, which will begin competition in the 2019-20 school year with Max Mejia as its first head coach, the university has announced.
By being the only collegiate institution in Minnesota to currently sponsor a varsity women’s wrestling program, Augsburg continues to lead the field in adding athletic opportunities for women. Women’s wrestling will be the 22nd varsity sport offered at Augsburg, and the 12th Auggie women’s sport. In 1995, Augsburg was the first college or university in the Midwest to sponsor a varsity women’s ice hockey team, and in 2014, Augsburg became the first collegiate institution in Minnesota to sponsor a varsity women’s lacrosse team.
“I am proud that our outstanding intercollegiate athletics program will once again set a new standard for offering competition opportunities for women,” said Augsburg President Dr. Paul Pribbenow. “Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and it is especially fitting that Augsburg — with its nationally recognized men’s wresting program — will join this movement. I look forward to our women’s wrestling program recruiting top-notch student-athletes from across the country and competing at the highest level.”
Adding women’s wrestling will add to Augsburg’s seven-decade reputation as one of the elite small-college wrestling programs in the nation. Augsburg has won 13 NCAA Division III national championships in men’s wrestling, including the most recent title in March. Augsburg has earned 56 individual national champions (52 NCAA, 4 NAIA) and 251 All-Americans (213 NCAA, 38 NAIA) in its intercollegiate men’s wrestling history.
Women’s wrestlers at Augsburg would join their men’s counterparts in using the school’s state-of-the-art wrestling facilities. The Alan and Gloria Rice Wrestling Center was opened in 2006, featuring three full-size and two half-size mats for one of the largest training spaces in the country in college wrestling.
“On the heels of winning our 13th NCAA national championship this year and having a seven-decade tradition of excellence in men’s wrestling, it seems appropriate that Augsburg University is opening the door to a new tradition of excellence with the establishment of a women’s wrestling program,” said Augsburg Athletic Director Jeff Swenson, who coached Augsburg’s men’s wrestling team for 25 years, winning 10 national titles with the Auggies. “Once again, Augsburg is providing opportunities for women’s student-athletes. The rich tradition of wrestling at Augsburg will no doubt give the women’s program a jump start. I’m proud to say that since 1995, we have added four women’s sports to our athletic program. The timing to add women’s wrestling is perfect as it is one of the fastest growing sports on the national level. We anticipate it becoming an NCAA sport very soon.”
A native of Chandler, Ariz., and a 2015 graduate of Harvard University, Mejia brings a broad level of experience with several levels of girls’ and women’s wrestling to his coaching role with the Auggies. Most recently, he has served for three years as Women’s and Developmental Coach at the Sunkist Kids Regional Training Center in Tempe, Ariz. The Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club has produced 55 Olympic medalists in both men’s and women’s wrestling. He also serves as head coach and women’s coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy. In recent years at the Sunkist Kids RTC and Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy, Mejia has helped coach a World Team Trials champion and another finalist, two senior national team members, a U.S. Open champion, finalist and placewinner, and four Arizona high school state champions.