It was an up-and-down weekend at the Concordia Wrestling Open for the University of Chicago men’s wrestling team. The team’s overall performance was strong, but the Maroons failed to bring home any finishers in the top three except for second-year Josh Layton, who took third in the 165 pound weight class. “Everyone went out there and wrestled hard. It may not be emulated on the amount of medals we took home, but it could definitely be seen in the individual matches,” said fourth-year Matt Hart.
Given that this is one of the largest meets in the country, featuring over 300 wrestlers from eight states, Layton’s performance is a good indication that the end of his season will have NCAA implications. “Jim Layton went out there and showed that he is a young leader on this team and one of the guys to beat in Division III,” said Hart.
Head coach Leo Kocher also commended the performance of fourth-year Chris Oster, who went into his matches battling an illness. “Oster was pretty ill…but he looked good under the circumstances,” said Kocher. “I was sick as a dog the whole tournament, leaving my fair share of puke in Concordia’s bathroom,” said Oster. Despite being extremely ill, Oster was able to win his first two matches (beating the #2 seed in his bracket 8-0 in the process), before falling 3-1 in his third match, one that Oster thought he could have won if he had been at full strength.
Aside from Oster, the team went into this meet relatively healthy. Coming out, however, several wrestlers felt the effects of wrestling against such a high level of competition, as one wrestler left with a concussion and several others left with other serious injuries.
“Quite a few of our guys got banged up at this event and I am not sure how adverse an effect that is going to have on our lineup for the near future,” said Coach Kocher. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix to injuries, and Kocher conceded that the team “will just keep working and heal up as soon as we can.”
The Maroons’ new conditioning system, which helped them tremendously against Olivet College last Tuesday, continued to pay dividends for this young squad. Coach Kocher knew going in that integrating the new conditioning program would show some benefits throughout the year. However, he was surprised by the immediacy and the level at which the conditioning program is having an effect. “We have been dedicating a portion of our practices to working weight plates, dumbells, and body weight exercises that have improved our agility, explosiveness, and endurance – even more than I had hoped. I think it will continue to show up in our wrestling.”
Hart also had good things to say about the program and the positive effect it has been having on the Maroons’ performances. “Our new conditioning system has really paid off. Coach [Kocher] puts us through hell but it has really developed our muscular endurance,” said Hart. “I can’t even express how much of an advantage that endurance is in a wrestling match, especially in the later periods.”
The Maroons travel today for their second dual meet of the season against 21st-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.