The University men’s wrestling team came out victorious, winning their third straight UAA league title in an exceedingly close dual. After defeating Case in the first dual of the day 40–8, the team met NYU, a group similar in experience and skill. Chicago escaped with the 20–19 victory.
“Like us, NYU had been having a tough year, and they tried to get everything together for this UAA Championship,” head coach Leo Kocher said. “I was pretty optimistic traveling there, but as I watched them wrestle, I concluded that they were a better team than I expected. After watching them wrestle Case, I knew they would be tough. They had a formidable lineup.”
The dual with NYU was defined by ups and downs. First-year Jake Schramm got Chicago off to a hot start with an 11–0 victory in the 125-lb. weight class, and first-year Ryan Hoyt followed soon after by riding out a strong NYU wrestling in the final two-minute period to secure a come-from-behind 3–2 victory. Yet later, the Maroons took tough losses in the 141-, 165-, and 174-lb. classes. The inconsistency made the dual tension-filled.
“The feeling before the match was that we could win it, but it wasn’t going to be easy,” first-year Jeff Tyburski, the UAA Rookie of the Year, added. “There was no guarantee. There was a degree of uncertainty, but the team really stepped it up at one point. There were a lot of guys in tight spots who pulled through.”
Ending in a 13–19 loss, the dual came down to the final two matches in the 197- and 285-lb. weight divisions. Tyburski pulled off an enormous upset in overtime, beating NYU 6–5 and bringing the team within three points of its opponent.
“Our backs were against the wall as we needed to win the last two bouts. Before the dual I told Jeff Tyburski we needed to be within five points of NYU when his match was over,” Kocher continued. “I was confident Ryan Hatten could pin the overmatched NYU heavyweight if he needed to do so. However, Jeff had to beat a seasoned UAA champ in order to put Ryan within striking distance. When Jeff pulled off the upset in overtime the squad went crazy.”
With the score at 16–19, Chicago needed to win its final bout. Fourth-year Ryan Hatten came through, finishing off NYU with a 14–4 decision in the 285-lb. class. After that result, Chicago’s third straight UAA title was a done deal. Despite the convincing result, Hatten was not always sure of his advantage.
“Honestly, I was so stressed out the whole meet,” he said. “It was such an up and down, exciting, nerve-wracking meet. But once I saw Jeff win, it was autopilot for me. [His match] inspired me to the point where I was not nervous. I just had to do what Jeff did. It was a storybook ending.”
The match capped off an extraordinary UAA career for a strong group of fourth-years and will drive the younger wrestlers on the team to maintain a high standard for competition.
“It is nice that our seniors, who have contributed so much leadership and hard work to this program the last four years, finished their careers with their third UAA team championship,” Kocher concluded. “Three-year-starter fourth-year Dave Kneisel was lost to a season-ending injury, but Matt Hart, Chris Oster, Kyle Kocher, Takumi Mihama, and Ryan Hatten all earned a place on our competition squad to New York this weekend because of their talent and hard work.”
“The win is going to motivate the team to work even harder. With our up-and-down season, this really put the exclamation point on our hard work,” Hatten added. “We’ve been battling injuries all year, but when it was on the line, we showed up. That includes our first-years who started all the way up to the fourth-years. I’m glad I got to be around these guys.”
Chicago wrestlers will look to continue their success at the Great Lakes Regional in Sheboygan, WI, on February 26.