Wrestlers taken down in opener

By Ben Jervis

Wrestling had hoped to start the 2006 campaign out on the right foot. Despite major contributions from the team’s newest additions, the squad did not prove up to the task.

In their season opener, UW–Whitewater held off Chicago 22–12 at the Maroons’ season opener in Whitewater, winning just three of ten matches. First-year 174-pounder Lance Contento made the team’s only pin, beating Warhawk third-year Adam Moe at the 2:13 mark. Classmate 157-pounder Spencer Burns overcame first-year Pat Nagel 5–1, and third-year Mike Bishof posted a 7–3 decision over second-year Dustin Fox at 165 pounds.

Injuries may have played a role in the team’s performance. Third-year Andrew Bribriesco was recovering from a concussion and sat out yesterday’s meet, as did two other expected starters, Bribriesco’s classmate Phil Kruzel and second-year Brandon Tillman. Kruzel and Tillman are expected to back at Saturday’s meet.

“We could have used Andrew and Brandon,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

As a result of these circumstances, first years made up the bulk of the lineup Wednesday. It was an unforeseen development for the team, who returned seven starters from last year’s squad.

“A few weeks ago I really did not expect that 6 of our 10 starters for our opening dual would be freshmen. My biggest concern going in was how so many freshmen would deal with their first college match,” Kocher said. “Every one of them battled tough. None of them were dominated.”

Coaches were encouraged by Contento and Burns’s work on the evening. The two enter the program coming off solid performances in their senior years. Both were finalists in their state high school tournaments before enrolling at the University of Chicago.

“Burns and Contento demonstrated that they are talented athletes,” Kocher said.

The two represent a strong entering class. The team’s other rookies all performed respectably in their first collegiate bouts, with heavyweight Tom Nero coming closest to victory in a 4–3 squeaker against second-year Derik Johnson. Also making their debuts were 125-pounder Ben Hart (an 8–4 loser to first-year Andy Livingston), 141-pounder Jack Toussaint (who fell 10–7 to first-year Matt Shuck), and 149-pounder Jeff Harman (defeated 2–0 by first-year Jake Wagner).

Team veterans third-year Alejandro Figueroa, handled 9–3 by first-year Kyle Hazelwood at 133, and his classmate Drew Marriott, rocked by second-year Karl Voeck 11–2 at 197, filled out the lineup.

Young talent may prove critical in the Maroons’ hunt for their sixth straight UAA title.

“The coaching staff is looking forward to the season. This could be a very good group,” Kocher said.

Over the past 27 years, Maroons wrestlers have won 20 All-American certificates, with Peter Wang (A.B. ’92) winning two individual national titles. The team has finished in the top-15 at nationals four times in Kocher’s U of C career.

The Maroons will hit the arena again Saturday at the prestigious Concordia Invite in Mequon, Wisconsin. They will host Wabash in their home opener November 30, and will finish out the calendar year with appearances at the Northwestern Duals December 15 and the Midlands December 29–30.