An interview by Brogan Louden
For Michael DeAugustino, he has always had his eyes set on winning an NCAA title. Prior to his collegiate career, DeAugustino was a three-time district champion, two-time regional champion and state runner-up during his four years at Flagler Palm Coast high school in Florida. While there, he also broke the all-time win record with 179 victories, previously held by his older brother.
After high school, he made the move to the Midwest to continue his career at Northwestern University. DeAugustino’s dreams quickly came to fruition as he asserted himself as not only one of the top wrestlers at 125 pounds in the Big Ten, but also the nation. In his redshirt freshman season, he knocked off some of the top ranked guys en route to a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. DeAugustino would receive the number eight seed heading into nationals. Due to the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, he would not get the chance to compete. However, he was named an NWCA All-American.
The following season in 2021, DeAugustino would use a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships to propel him into the NCAA Championships. At Nationals, he would make it to the blood round where he would suffer a heart-breaking overtime loss. He would instantly turn those feelings from that day into motivation.
During the 2021-2022 season, DeAugustino would miss a portion of this season to have surgery on his hand. This would not stop him from turning in his most impressive season yet, as he would go on to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
In his fifth season as a redshirt senior, DeAugustino was able to capture a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, and qualify for the 2023 NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here’s what the #wildman had to say about becoming a Chain Wrestling Signature Athlete and his reflection on his career thus far.
Q: Why did you decide to team up with Chain Wrestling and become a signature Signature Athlete?
A: I loved what the company is doing. It is new and I wanted to get on early. Chain is extremely fair to their athletes and gives them a platform to speak on.
Q: How has the rich history of wrestling in your family been able to influence your overall growth and development in the sport?
A: When times get tough in this sport, it helps me find a little bit of motivation to push through things. I have been blessed to have a great support system from my family, especially my dad, mom, brother and sister. Without them, this journey I have had wouldn’t be the same.
Q: Out of high school, what schools did you consider and what ultimately went into your decision to continue your career at Northwestern University?
A: I wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school, I remember my junior year I sent out 58 emails to different head coaches within Division I wrestling. I got ignored by most of them. Ultimately, by the end of it I had about six schools interested, including Northwestern, Purdue, Maryland, Kent State, App State and Duke. I had an injury my senior year and I even had one school pull back some of the money they originally offered me. Northwestern was extremely supportive during this time; I really enjoyed how I fit in with the team. I also thought it would be awesome to go to school in Chicago. I was blessed with some talented training partners at Northwestern as well. Between the great education NU has to offer, the great relationship I had with the program and the coaches being supportive, it was a no brainer to sign the papers to be a Wildcat. I saw the most room to grow at Northwestern. It was a place I thought I could be happy and enjoy life. Wrestling is easy if you can enjoy your life while doing it.
Q: In your collegiate wrestling career, what matches stand out most to you having beat many of the top guys in the nation at your weight? Are there any rematches you were looking forward to in the 2023 postseason?
A: The match that stands out the most to me in my career is the match against Illinois this year. It was the last match of the dual and we needed a major to win the dual, I scored 9 points in the last period to get the major. it came down to the third tiebreaker. It wasn’t one of my biggest wins of my career, but to me it was. Illinois is our biggest rival and there is history between the two programs. To get the win for my team meant a lot to me; I love my team and it was the first time
in a while that Northwestern has won two years in a row against Illinois. It is always a dual that means a little more to our program. It was electric to win in that fashion.
Q: Wrestling similar weight classes throughout your entire high school and college career, have you ever found it difficult at any point to manage your weight in balance with your performance?
A: Yeah, at first it can be challenging. In high school, I had a hard time cutting weight. Once I got to college you learn from the older guys, have a nutritionist and you find your routine that works for you. I would say you are always looking to fine tune it though. In my opinion when you are cutting a good amount of weight even if you eat the same stuff every week, etc., you always feel different. There are a lot of different factors that go into it, such as sleep, diet and fatigue. I have never missed weight. It has been difficult at times, but stay confident and trust your discipline and you will be fine.
Q: Having a breakout year in the 2019-2020 season, as a redshirt freshman, what were your emotions and how did you handle the cancellation of the NCAA tournament after finishing third in the Big Ten Championships and being seeded in the top eight for Nationals?
A: It was the weirdest day of my wrestling career. It felt like a dream when we heard the tournament wouldn’t happen, just pure shock. We had a really great team that year and I felt that we got an opportunity taken away from us to take home a team trophy. I flew home to Florida and put a wrestling mat in my garage the next week and got to work with my best friend from home, Zach Branning. He was a big part of me developing my craft over Covid.
Q: What has it meant for you to be able to play such a large role in turning Northwestern into a significant force over the last couple of seasons and leading them to two top ten finishes at the NCAA Championships? What would you contribute that group success and cohesion to?
A: It is something that I am not sure I would believe if I was talking to my 18-year-old self, but little by little I chipped away at small goals. It put me at the right spots to perform on the big stage. Our team just truly loves each other. It is easy to go out and compete when you have a bunch of warriors next to you who share the same passion and goals. Storniolo does a good job at recruiting guys who will fit in good with the program. It is simple. You create a bond with these guys, and you want to go win for them. It just means more to go win with these guys on my team.
Q: Throughout you career, what has been able to keep you motivated and striving to achieve more? Additionally, what has wrestling at the Division 1 level taught you most about yourself?
A: I never got the state title I dreamed of in high school and maybe it is a good thing I didn’t. Sometimes in life what we treasure so much to have can detour you from something better. I thought it was the end of the world when I didn’t win state, it broke me. After, it made me hungry to go prove people wrong, but more importantly to go prove to myself I have what it takes. That was a big part for my early success. My sophomore year, I lost in the round of twelve in pretty rough fashion. I got hit for stalling twice in the last 20 seconds of the match to force
the match into OT. I later lost the match in overtime. It is no excuse because you should always be five points better than the ref, so a call doesn’t matter, but it is a feeling that’ll I will never forget for the rest of my life. Whenever times get tough, I think back to that moment, every last detail of it, from the opponent celebrating and the opposing coach celebrating; it gets me going and takes me to a mindset that I love. Division 1 wrestling has taught me that no matter what your background was prior, everyone starts fresh in college. It doesn’t matter what you did in high school, it is about the now and using every day to get better. Four years seems like a long time, but it goes quick. Use every moment you can to give it the most you can out of it. Start early at working hard in college and success will come. Stay humble and keep chugging along. The kid who can get beat up and comes back with a smile on his face is the one who will go far.
Q: Other than in front of your home crowd, where has been your favorite place to compete? Why?
A: I really enjoyed wrestling at REC Hall, they boo’d me pretty hard last time I was there. It is fun to wrestling in front of a crowd that is that loud, especially one that is rooting against you.
Q: Given your success and exposure over the last four seasons, have you been able to assume a leadership role on your team? What is the biggest piece of advice that you give to the younger guys in the room?
A: I have been lucky enough to enter that leader role, but just because I am in that spot on the team, doesn’t mean I can’t learn from others, including younger guys on the team. The biggest piece of advice I give to younger guys in the room is just to not get discouraged. If you have a bad practice, it's okay. The guys who can get whooped up on in the practice room and come back the next day and continue to train hard, those are the guys that will prevail at the college level. It is hard to beat a guy that is used to being counted out, that’s a dangerous man.
Q: Do you plan to continue competing at the international level once your collegiate career comes to a close? If not, what is next for you?
A: I am not too sure what is next for me, I am somewhat a wildcard and don’t like to think too far in advance. My eyes are always just set on the next competition; I am not ruling out wrestling internationally. Once my career is over, I would like to either pursue coaching or use my degree and do broadcast journalism.
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About the author: Brogan Louden
Brogan Louden, a 2022 graduate of Shippensburg University, is from the great state of Pennsylvania. Growing up his entire life surrounded by some of the best wrestling in the nation, he quickly discovered his strong passion and love for the
sport. Now, he is looking to pursue a career in wrestling media to help bring more
awareness and excitement to the sport.