First-year head coach making impact

Matt Zwaschka earns Upper Midwest Regional Wrestling Co-Coach of the Year

Erika Marion, Assistant Sports Editor

Starting in a collegiate program as head coach is a big responsibility.

Matt Zwaschka’s situation was no different when he became head coach for the Warhawk wrestling team Sept. 18, 2018.

But he was not inexperienced.

He formerly served as an assistant coach for the Warhawks from 2005-11, working in all aspects of the program.

Before he became head coach, Zwaschka helped the Warhawks tie for 12th place at the NCAA Championships in 2009 and coached seven All-Americans, eight Academic All-Americans and six individual WIAC champions.

Zwaschka took his past experiences with UW-W and paid them off in his first year as the lead man. He was recently selected Upper Midwest Regional Co-Coach of the Year after six of his wrestlers advanced to the nationals at the NCAA Regional in Eau Claire Feb. 23.

“It is a reflection of what the athletes were able to accomplish on the mat this past weekend,” said Zwaschka. “I am extremely proud of them, their efforts and believe it has paid off for them. It also is nice to be recognized by my coaching peers. I have worked for some and with many others and for them to acknowledge the growth and success of this team is humbling.”

Senior Nick Stencel had a lot of positive comments on his coach’s accomplishment.

“Coach Z is more than a coach,” said Stencel. “He is a leader and a mentor. I know everybody else on the team believes this because he shows it every day. He is one of the best coaches I have ever had. His love and passion for the sport pushes myself and the team more than he knows. He has a huge impact on everybody. I would not be the wrestler I am without him. I always knew I could make it to the national tournament, but he helped me make it happen.”

The team slogan for this season that Zwaschka chose was ‘Believe, because if you believe you can do something, you’re halfway there.’

Junior Nick Graziano also had positive words about Zwaschka.

“He deserved that award by showing true leadership for the other wrestlers, even when it was his first year being at UW-Whitewater as head coach,” said Graziano. “Coach was able to bring six wrestlers to the national tournament while only having a short time being with them. The experience from his previous years truly showed and will provide a stepping stone in the upcoming years for Warhawk wrestling.”

Zwaschka seems to have made a tremendous impact on all of the wrestlers on the team, and their performance out on the mat shows his dedication to improving all of the wrestlers.

“The season has been great,” said Zwaschka. “We have just been having fun and enjoying the process. The work ethic has been top notch, and it is something we take pride in as a program. During the season it felt like we were never able to put our best lineup out on the mat due to injuries and what not, and we finally have been able to at the right time. I feel like we are peaking at the right time and have positioned ourselves in a great spot to make a run and have a successful national tournament.”

The national tournament takes place on March 8 and 9 in Roanoke, Va. Three of the six Warhawk wrestlers are in the top 10 nationally: No. 3 Mike Tortorice at 125 pounds, No. 6 Hazen Rice at 141 pounds and No. 5 Riley Kauzlaric at 197 pounds.