Warhawk Almanac: Wrestling

Written by Ashley Bowe

The history of the wrestling team goes back to the mid-1950s as part of a campus promotion and celebration. The presence of wrestling on campus started as a promotional event called “Campus Chaos”, which was a variety show of both boxing and wrestling that started in 1956.[1] The event took off and was held annually by the sophomore class until 1960, with various names such as “Campus Catastrophe” or “Campus Confusion,” when the Veteran’s League took over sponsoring the event.[2]

By the early 1960s, thanks to the success of the “Campus Confusion” event, the interest in wrestling on campus had grown. The university organized its first wrestling team for the 1961 -1962 season. During a time when the university had no officially recognized mascot, the wrestling team was initially known as the “matmen.”[3] The team had a remarkable start, going undefeated in its second season and finishing 3rd at the State Collegiate Tournament[4].

Photo of 1962-1963 Wrestling Team
Undefeated 1962-1963 Wrestling Team[5]

Wrestling continued to grow as a sport throughout the rest of the 1960s. Cecil Austin was the first All-American wrestler for Whitewater and won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) for his weight class during the 1966-1967 season.[6] In addition to Austin, two other teammates, John Bauman and Bob Schuldt, won the (WIAC) championship in their respective weight classes during that same season, making them the first three WIAC champions in school history[7] In total, through the 2023-2024 season, 102 Whitewater wrestlers have been named All-American, and 127 wrestlers have been crowned WIAC champions.

Photo of the wrestling team captains for 1966-1967
From left to right: Cecil Austin, John Bauman, Bob Schuldt, tri-captains of the wrestling team and WIAC champions, 1967.[8]

While UW-Whitewater’s wrestling team has never won the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) championship, the wrestling team has made 38 national championship appearances since 1981, finishing as high as second place, falling to Wartburg, in 2014.[9] Wrestling at Whitewater has come a long way from its beginnings as an exhibition as part of a campus variety show to a battle for the title of national champion.

[1] Minneiska, 1956, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center, https://jstor.org/stable/community.29916417.

[2] Mary Janette Bohi, “Toward New Frontiers: The Search for Excellence,” in A History of Wisconsin State University Whitewater, 1868-1968 (Whitewater, Wisconsin: Whitewater State University Foundation, Inc., 1967), 224.

[3] “Matmen to Meet Marquette JV’s,” The Royal Purple, February 27, 1962.

[4] Minneiska, 1963, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center,  https://jstor.org/stable/community.29916418.

[5] Minneiska, 1963, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center, 197,  https://jstor.org/stable/community.29916418.

[6] “Wrestling All-Americans,” Wrestling, https://uwwsports.com/sports/2024/1/29/wrestling-all-americans.aspx; Minneiska, 1967, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center, 128, https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.30048827.  

[7] “Wrestling Conference Champions,” Wrestling, https://uwwsports.com/sports/2024/1/29/wrestling-wiac-champions.aspx;  “Wrestling Tri-Captains Finish On Top,” The Royal Purple, March 16. 1967.

[8] “Wrestling Tri-Captains Finish On Top,” The Royal Purple, March 16. 1967.

[9] “Wrestling NCCAA Championship History (Team),” Wrestling,” https://uwwsports.com/sports/2024/1/29/wrestling-ncaa-tournament.aspx; Christopher Clapper, “Warhawks finish as runner-up,” The Royal Purple, March 19, 2014, https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.35002010.   

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