Wrestling 2022 season preview


Jarrit Shinhoster’s fist is raised by an official to display his victory at the NCAA national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 12, 2022. Photo Courtesy of Jarrit Shinhoster

Nick Walczak, Men’s Sports Journalist

UW-Whitewater Wrestling will launch their 2022 campaign as they host their annual alumni meet Oct. 29. The team looks to start strong and fast to help set the tone for the rest of the season.

Last season the wrestlers finished with a record of 9-1 including a conference record of 4-1, good for first place in the WIAC in terms of standings. However, the Warhawks garnered a fifth-place finish at the WIAC championships meet.

“Last year we took fifth in conference, and it was honestly embarrassing for our program, so we are trying to redeem ourselves with that as well,” said All-American and reigning National Champion Jarrit Shinhoster.

Starting this season, the Warhawks are ranked No. 21 in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III preseason rankings and they hope to climb the rankings as the season goes on.

Head coach Matthew Zwashcka is returning to Whitewater for his fifth year as the head of the wrestling program. Zwashcka has a positive outlook and high expectations for this year’s group of Whitewater wrestlers.

“The goal is to win a team national championship,” Zwashcka said. “Us not having a national tournament for three years [due to Covid] meant a lot of the kids on the team had never even been to a national tournament, they had no idea even what they were trying to get to.”

While the team will have the ability to rely on their veterans and upperclassmen for leadership and success, Zwashcka also has high expectations for their young wrestlers. 

“We have a very large class coming in. There are over 20 newcomers to the team. It has probably been one of our biggest and one of our most accoladed recruiting classes that we’ve had,” Zwashcka said.

One of those young talents is Jalen Dunson, from Oak Park, Illinois. The team hopes for him to come in right away and help the light weights. Another newcomer the team is hoping will find early success is Justin Fortugno. He placed third in the New York state championships last year. Luke Shmerbach from DeKalb, Illinois, is another wrestler the team is very excited about coming in and is hopeful he will be able to help out right away. 

While the team does have unproven talent at the collegiate level, the team does have tremendous veteran leadership. One of the tried-and-true members of the team is a senior two-time All-American, Jaritt Shinhoster, who won last year’s NCAA Division III national championship at 184 lbs.

“It was a powerful moment seeing Shinhoster win the national championship and having the whole team there to see it,” Zwashcka said. “It proved to our team that if he could do it and they are doing the same things he is doing, why can’t they do it?”

Shinhoster’s finish last season was a dream come true, but he is done celebrating and is ready for another season.

“Last year was great, but it’s in the past now. It doesn’t really matter,” Shinhoster said. “In years past, there have been plenty of national champions who either didn’t qualify for the national tournament or lost in the first round. You see it every year, so I’m keeping my head clear and keeping it at one match at a time. Not looking ahead.”

The reigning national champion said he does not have any individual goals for this season, but he feels the team they have this year is one who could compete for a team national title.

“This team is one of the reasons I came back to take my Covid year. I feel like with the team we have now, anything is possible,” Shinhoster said. 

Whether you are a fan of Whitewater or not, it is easy to argue that this season will be one full of excitement. All eyes will be on Shinhoster and the young team of promising stars. 

Following the alumni meet, the team travels to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to take on the UW-Oshkosh Titans in their first WIAC opponent of the season. Whitewater will host their first meet this season Dec. 8 against UW-Eau Claire.

Once the regular season ends, Whitewater hosts the WIAC championships on Feb. 11 and the NCAA regionals Feb. 24-25. NCAA championship matches take place March 10-11.