Jason Zastrow, former assistant coach and wrestler at Division III mat powerhouse Wartburg College, has been named head wrestling coach of the brand-new program at University of the Ozarks, the Clarksville, Ark. school announced May 22.
University of the Ozarks had announced the addition of its men’s wrestling program in early May – the Division III school’s eleventh men’s varsity sport — which will take to the mat for the 2014-15 season.
Zastrow had been on the coaching staff at Wartburg from 2010-2013. During that time, the Waverly, Iowa-based school won three consecutive NCAA Division III team titles (the Knights won their fourth in 2014). What’s more, the program produced seven individual NCAA Division III titles, 22 All-Americans and 17 Academic All-Americans. If that weren’t enough, Wartburg also won three National Wrestling Coaches Association national dual titles, three Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles, and posted a near-perfect 56-1 record during the three seasons Zastrow was an assistant.
Zastrow wrestled at Wartburg four seasons, qualifying for the 2006 NCAA Division III championships at 174 pounds.
“His national championship experience will be extremely valuable to our program,” said Ozarks Athletics Director Jimmy Clark. “He has been a part of the most successful NCAA Division III men’s wrestling program in the country. We feel fortunate to have a coach of his caliber with national title experience. He understands the value of NCAA Division III, and the role it plays within the collegiate experience.”
In talking about his role in helping to launch a new Division III wrestling program from scratch, Zastrow said, “Not many coaches have the chance to start a new program,” Zastrow said. “It is exciting for me to be a part of it. Our incoming class has the opportunity to be the first group to make an impact on the program. We want to build one block at a time, and then eventually produce All-Americans. I want our kids to have a championship lifestyle. I want to see growth in the program each day. If we can be better tomorrow than we were today, then I think the program is heading in the right direction.”
“It is an exciting time not only for me, but also for the university. We will all watch the program grow together. Wrestling is gaining popularity in the state, and it is a perfect opportunity for the campus to grow with it.”
Referring to his time as an athlete at perennially top-ranked Wartburg, Zastrow said, “I want my wrestlers to have the same good experiences I had as an NCAA Division III student-athlete. There is an equal balance between being a student and being an athlete at this level. Students have the chance to receive one-on-one attention academically and athletically. But they need to be students first. I not only want guys that wrestle well, but I want them to be good students and respected citizens. I want student-athletes that we are pride of after graduation.”
Zastrow’s Division III background extends beyond Wartburg. Prior to joining the Knights’ staff, Zastrow coached at another Iowa-based D3 school, Central College, from 2007-2010. As the Ozarks announcement points out, Zastrow helped turn that program around. His first season as an assistant, the Dutch went 0-12, but by his third year, the program posted a ten-win season.
Ozarks AD Clark cited Zastrow’s tenure at Central as another positive for the new coach.
“He was part of a successful rebuilding process at Central College,” said Clark. “I have full confidence he will start us off right. He has a passion for wrestling and understands the NCAA Division III philosophy. Wrestling will bring a new dynamic to our campus and I am glad Jason will be a part of that.”
Founded in 1834, University of the Ozarks is a private, undergraduate university that is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Located in Clarksville, Ark. — approximately 100 miles west of Little Rock and 60 miles east of Fort Smith – the school has nearly 600 students.