Augie women wrestlers hungry for more

Abhib Lal Amatya

Augustana women’s wrestling team kicked off their inaugural season by participating in an invitational tournament hosted by UWSP on Nov. 6, 2021. Coach Toney Willeart believes this first match has given the team more drive and desire to win this season.

“We just had our first meet. We did really well and it really made the girls hungry for success,” Willeart said.

Similarly, wrestler Kara Rohlf believes the first meet was a good one and they are aware of areas that need improvement.

Since this is the women’s wrestling team’s first ever season, it is quite uncertain what to expect from this year. Wrestler Sawyer Graham is proud of the team so far and excited to see what they do this year.

“The season has been going good so far. We practice every day at 3 and it has been fun and intense. We have pretty good facilities as well,” Graham said.

“The practices have been really good and fun and the season has been going great so far,” Willeart said. “We still have a long way to go in terms of getting better at wrestling, and everybody has been giving their 100 percent so far.”

Rohlf attributes their success in their first match to the support from everyone around them.

“The support from the coaching staff is super strong, and the men’s team is very welcoming as well. They have been taking really good care of us,” Rohlf said.

Wrestling is a tough sport. Besides requiring high dedication and intense training, it also requires the wrestlers to maintain their shape and weight to be eligible to wrestle in their certain category.

“We get suggestions about what we should be eating and we also had a recent discussion about how eating six small meals a day rather than three big ones would improve our metabolism rate,” Rohlf said. “They also discuss nutrition and have a workout program to keep them in shape.

Rohlf is very happy that Augustana is providing the opportunity for women’s wrestling.

“I am from Iowa and women’s wrestling is not even sanctioned there,” Rohlf said. “It is kind of a big deal that Augustana is recruiting girls for women’s wrestling, slowly other colleges are also starting to introduce women’s wrestling. I am excited for the NCAA supporting this event.”
Women’s wrestling is becoming more popular not only at colleges, but nationally as well.
Even though the team only consists of seven wrestlers right now, Willeart hopes the team will grow over the years. With a growing team, a new facility might be needed in the future.

“Talks have been going on about getting a new wrestling facility,, but we are good with what we have right now, and we have a strong plan in place.” Willeart said. “We have seven girls on our roster so far, but we hope to build a strong team of 20-30 wrestlers in the future.”

Due to the small number of wrestlers on the team, they have to forfeit some categories. To improve the results and even start competing for the titles, they just need to stay focused and work through these barriers.

“We just have to keep focusing on it. As a coaching staff, bringing in good wrestlers and good talent will definitely improve a lot,” Willeart said. “We just need to keep them motivated and they just need to be willing to put on work.”

Similarly, Graham believes that they will need their own coaching staff in the future to help them grow as a team, but having to share the coaching staff with the men’s team is absolutely fine for now.

“Organizing more home meets and inspiring other girls to get into wrestling will help a lot in the long term,” Graham said.

Coach Willeart has been busy coaching both the men and women’s wrestling teams, but he is happy about it..

“I enjoy it. I think having two different coaching staffs would create a separation, not in a negative way though,” Willeart said. “I love wrestling, I love being in the wrestling room and I love when my wrestlers work hard.”

Willeart is currently in his fifth year at Augustana and his tenth year as a college level wrestling coach.,ut, this is his first experience coaching a women’s team. Rohlf and Sawyer have been wrestling for three and five years respectively and are ready to finally compete at a collegiate level.