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"We're trying to find the ones who want to be pioneers": Augustana adds two new sports for 2021-2022 season

While other college athletic departments are being forced to cut sports to save money, Augustana is doing the opposite, adding two new sports to its lineup.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill — From basketball, football, soccer, swimming, and baseball, Augustana College's athletic department has all of the usual suspects. 

"I've never coached a team that hasn't had a history before so it's cool that we'll be writing our own history," said Tony Willaert, Augustana men's wrestling head coach. 

To write that history, Augustana has added two new sports to the lineup come the 2021-2022 season. 

"Augustana started the process of adding new sports about three years ago," said Mike Zapolski, Director of Athletics at Augustana. "We really focused on the aquatic sports if we could figure out a way to make a new pool happen." 

That new pool at the also new Lindberg Center is paving the way for men's and women's water polo at Augie, and for an expanded swimming roster. 

"It's very popular in California, Texas, and Florida so it'll provide Augustana with an excellent opportunity to recruit students from all over the country." said Zapolski. 

The Vikings are also adding women's wrestling and current men's wrestling head coach Tony Willaert is excited to start from scratch. 

"We're trying to find the girls who want to be pioneers, who want to be apart of the history, who want to be apart of the first to do something and prove that we can do it here." said Willaert. 

They're looking to bring in athletes from all over the country and expand Augie's geographic footprint, but homegrown talent has been on its radar as well with talented female wrestlers in the Quad Cities. 

"It's cool that there's already a base, and then having the college program will only expand that," said Willaert. "They don't have duals they can come watch, so seeing the high-level women's wrestling for the youth and high school level is only going to make it grow even more. It's cool that we can recruit from our base but it's going to grow from there too." 

Many Division I programs are having to make the tough call to cut back on sports to save money, but Division III schools like Augustana are adding programs to help increase enrollment. 

"At the Division 1 level you're seeing a lot of announcements about sports being eliminated for budgetary purposes," said Zapolski. "At the Division III level you're seeing sports being added because it's such a critical part of the enrollment puzzle for colleges across the country." 

Between water polo, women's wrestling, and an expanded swimming roster, Augustana hopes to add about 75 student-athletes.