Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana adds three new sports for 2021-2022 school year


At the start of the 2021 school year, Augustana sports fans will have three new teams to support. Augustana athletics has officially announced the addition of women’s wrestling and men’s and women’s water polo.
“Between the addition of our new building that will be complete in just over a year and the growing popularity of women’s wrestling, we felt they were the most logical options,” athletic director Mike Zapolski said.
All three sports will begin competing during the 2021-2022 school year. The addition of the three sports has been in the works for around two and a half years, and now Augustana is up to 26 varsity sports: 13 for men and 13 for women.
In terms of water polo, the addition of the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Innovation in Health, Wellness and Human Performance that will be completed in about 13 or 14 months allowed for the new sports. The building will feature a new and larger pool, which aside from housing water polo matches will allow for an expanded swim team roster.
At the moment, the search for a water polo coach is on as time ticks down before the 2021 school year kicks off. For the women’s wrestling team, the team will be coached by the current men’s head coach Tony Willaert.
While this is the first time Willaert will have a full squad of women to coach, he has experience coaching individual girls on the club level. From the moment Willaert took over as head coach, he had plans to eventually get a women’s wrestling team at Augustana and has confidence for the program.
“I am very confident that we can be successful right away and keep that winning tradition. There are a lot of talented wrestlers in the Quad City area and it will only continue to grow after we have this program up and running,” Willaert said.
Willaert has hit the ground running in the recruiting game and was starting to build a roster as soon as the announcement was made. He is focusing his efforts on incoming freshman to lay the ground work of the new program.
“I was actually recruiting as soon as we added the program. It is going really well.  We already have girls who have applied for next year knowing that we are not competing until the following year. I think that we will be able to establish a solid base for our first few years and continue to grow,”Willaert said.
Currently, the list of regional NCAA Division III schools that sponsor or are planning to sponsor women’s wrestling include Adrian, Augsburg, Aurora, Carthage, Fontbonne, Iowa Wesleyan, Lakeland, North Central, UW-Stevens Point and Westminster.
All three sports are in the hunt for a conference for the 2021 school year. For women’s wrestling, other member schools such as Carthage, Lakeland, and North Central creating a program increases the chances that the CCIW could one day sponsor a women’s wrestling conference, according to Zapolski. At this point nothing is certain.
Women’s wrestling as a sport is moving towards having a NCAA sponsored national championship. In order for the NCAA to sponsor a national championship, there must be 40 member schools that sponsor that sport. After the Augustana announcement, the number moved up to 37.
The addition of these three sports looks to be the end of new sports at Augustana in the near future.
“We are pretty much maxed out on space at the moment. We aren’t in any talks at the moment, but it is tough to deny the growing popularity of E-sports. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that become a varsity sport,” Zapolski said.
Featured image: graphic designed by Kevin Donovan/Observer Staff

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Augustana adds three new sports for 2021-2022 school year