Augustana gets the best of wrestling

Injuries and misfortune hamper Maroons squad

By Noah Weiland

Wrestling fell to Augustana 31—10 at home Wednesday night, letting their record dip to 5­—8, after arguably the best finish of the season at the Elmhurst Invite. The big let-down left the Maroons hurting after the loss Wednesday.

“This team was good, but a win was clearly in our reach,” said head coach Leo Kocher.

“We had some backups in the lineup, but so did Augustana. My expectations were that if all of our wrestlers competed their best we had a good chance to win.”

Despite the loss, three Chicago wrestlers posted wins, including fourth-year heavyweight Ryan Hatten, first-year Sam Pennisi in the 184-lb weight class, and first-year Jacob Smith in the 141-lb class. Pennisi and Smith held their own opponents scoreless, but the combination of two nationally ranked wrestlers and a host of strong competitors from Augustana proved to be too much to handle for the rest of the team.

“The score didn’t represent the match we had. We had a couple tight matches we lost toward the end, so the score didn’t do justice to our team effort,” Smith said.

Despite the team’s struggles, he stepped up for the team on a night when seemingly nothing could go Chicago’s way with a 5-0 decision.

“Coming into Wednesday, I was very, very nervous, but about a half hour before, I got my head right. I bumped up a weight class, so I knew the guy was going to be stronger than me,” Smith continued. “Even though I won, I could have won more points for the team if I had taken more chances. I had a good stance and technique, but I could have opened it up even a little more.”

“We did not know Jacob would be competing until six hours before the meet,” Kocher added. “He had to go up a weight class because the two wrestlers we had there both took ill. Jacob rose to the occasion, wrestled a very solid match, and got the win.”

Smith’s last-minute insertion into the lineup was representative of most of the Maroons’ downfall throughout the meet: they were marred by both injury and pressure.

“Two of our five freshmen took tough losses—one was an overtime loss and in the other we were pinned late in a match where we were pretty much in control,” Kocher continued.

“[And] Jimmy Layton being out with illness at 157 resulted into what was probably a nine- or-ten point turnaround as well.”

The match Wednesday was a huge upset for the Maroons after Saturday’s exciting result. At Elmhurst, six Chicago wrestlers had top-three performances as the team finished second out of 11 teams. Second-year Francisco Acosta and Pennisi finished runner-up in their weight classes to lead the team to a strong outcome.

“The fact that we finished ahead of an Elmhurst team that beat us handily in a dual earlier this season talks about how our guys wrestled that day,” Kocher said.

“It was just a real strong overall team effort. Everyone seemed to be wrestling well. It was probably our best performance to date.”

Yet even with the slip Wednesday after such success over the weekend, Smith remains optimistic.

“It wasn’t a setback. Losses are motivators for us. We’ve had a good run of wins, so if anything, it keeps us from being too satisfied and not working hard because we’ve been successful,” he said. “

“Especially with the UAA conference event coming up, it was a learning experience moving forward.”

The team’s next action is at the Wheaton Invitational on January 28 and 29.