UWO’s Choinski makes mark at regional meet

Titans place ninth and only one wrestler will move on to nationals

Billy Piotrowski, Writer

The UW Oshkosh wrestling team competed at the NCAA Division-III Upper Midwest Regional at Augsburg College and placed ninth out of 13 teams with 53.5 points.

Oshkosh had five of 10 competing wrestlers place in the top six of their respective weight classes Feb. 23 and 24. However, only junior Mark Choinski qualified for the National Tournament March 9 and 10 in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Titans had been working the entire season for this moment and head coach Efrain Ayala said the team’s hard work has directly translated into the team’s performance.

“These guys were underdogs in some of the matches, and they didn’t let that affect them,” Ayala said. “They just brought their A-game and they were able to come out on top in a lot of those matches, especially against highly ranked wrestlers.”

The high intensity was truly a testament to the hard work and level the team has competed at throughout the season. From sparring at practice on a weekly basis to staying strong academically, the Titans consistently remained on top of their game throughout the season.

Every year, the regional championships are always a challenge, and UWO has embraced that challenge head-on. Sophomore Colten Cashmore said his mentality going into his matches in Minnesota was important to his success.

“I knew everybody was going to be tough,” Cashmore said. “I just had to go out there mentally strong and prepared for every match. Anything can happen, so you just have to go in with an open mind and know that you’ve put in the work and you’re ready to go.”

Cashmore finished regionals with a record of two wins and three losses, earning sixth place in the 184 pound weight class. At 149 pounds, junior Corey Knudsen finished sixth with a record of three wins and losses apiece.

Regionals also acted as a learning experience for the Titans, just as much as it was a competition. Knudsen said he understands where both he and the team are at after the season and how that can help with preparation for next season.

“I see where I stand right now, and I know I have things to work on,” Knudsen said. “I can’t wait to get after it, grind a little bit more and show everyone in the nation who Oshkosh is as a team. We have a lot of talent, a lot of people, and we all work together well, and we’re all going to show it next year.”

There’s one more stop for the Titans before they can completely look forward to next season as Choinski finished second in the 157 pound weight class with a record of 3-1, qualifying for the national championship.

This marks Choinski’s second-straight trip to nationals. Last season as a sophomore, Choinski finished sixth in the championship at 157 pounds.

As big of an accomplishment as this is, Choinski said he isn’t resting on his laurels. He said he understands what is at stake in the next tournament, but has his eyes set at the top.

“Other than just the atmosphere I feed off of the hype of it all,” Choinski said. “I love how big it is. I love the drama that’s involved and the kids’ attitudes. They think they can beat you, and I feed off of that. I just love it. I think I can be my best under pressure. Overall I’m looking at standing on top of the podium. I want to be on the top.”

Choinski, the team and the entire Titans coaching staff have been working tirelessly to prepare for the big event. They believe that this year, UWO will have a national champion coming home this weekend.

If Choinski were to win the championship in his weight class, he would become the third All-American champion for UWO and the first since 2014.