Augsburg adds varsity women's wrestling, first program of its kind in Minnesota

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Augsburg University will add Minnesota's first women’s wrestling program, the university announced Wednesday.

The team will begin competition next school year and announced it has hired Max Mejia as its first head coach.

Augsburg is the first collegiate institution in Minnesota to sponsor a varsity women’s wrestling program. Currently, 46 other colleges and universities nationwide sponsor women’s wrestling and 13 other schools will join Augsburg in adding the sport in the next two years.

Augsburg will join Adrian (Mich.), Ferrum (Va.), Lakeland (Wis.), MacMurray (Ill.), Pacific (Ore.), Schreiner (Texas) and Westminster (Mo.) in Division III women’s wrestling. Delaware Valley (Pa.), Fontbonne (Mo.), North Central (Ill.), Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Augsburg will add the sport in 2019.

Women’s wrestling will be Augsburg’s 22nd varsity sport and its 12th women’s sport.

Augsburg is no stranger to breaking ground in women’s sports, either. The school was the first Midwest school to sponsor a women’s ice hockey team in 1995 and was also first in Minnesota to field women’s lacrosse in 2014.

"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."

The women’s program would join the men in the university’s Alan and Gloria Rice Wrestling Center, which opened in 2006.

"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 to 10 national titles in 25 years.

New head coach Max Mejia, a Harvard University graduate, most recently worked with Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club in Tempe, Arizona. He also serves as head coach for the Chandler (Arizona) High School girls’ wrestling team.

"The key to any successful athletic program is a great leader and coach, and we have found that person in Max Mejia," Swenson said. "Max has been successful coaching women's wrestling at multiple levels, and we are looking forward to him leading our program to success at the national level.