Untimely pins, super subs doom wrestling

By Joe Katz

Coming off a standout showing at the North Central Invite and matching up against a short-handed host, wrestling certainly could have been excused for having visions of an upset. They instead came to grips with a largely unsuspected depth of talent on the opposing bench.

In their last dual meet of the regular season, the Maroons (3–5) fell 29–18 at 12th-ranked Elmhurst (8–2–1) Tuesday. Third-years 141-pounder Andrew Bribriesco and 165-pounder Mike Bishof led the Chicago effort with a pair of pins, while third-year 174-pounder Phil Kruzel and first-year 157-pounder Spencer Burns each notched six-point decisions in their bouts.

On the surface, it should have been an easier path for the visitors. The Bluejays have been plagued by injuries and held a number of their normal starters out of the meet. Fourth-years Tyler Ludwig, Division III’s third-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds, and Josh Rupprecht, seventh-ranked at 174, were among the notables missing. Several of Elmhurst’s second-stringers placed at North Central, however, and they acquitted themselves well against the Maroons.

“They put up a competitive lineup,” head coach Leo Kocher said. “For our guys to beat them is still respectable. For the meet, everything would have had to have gone right for us to beat them.”

Bribriesco certainly did his part, dominating third-year Brian Ranger to earn the fall at 5:26. The match win was his sixth in a row, including a 4–0 day to take his bracket at North Central. The 141-pounder has come a long way in a hurry after missing close to a month of practices, due to a concussion and being unable to wrestle in his natural weight class until December 15.

“Missing all that time put him in a hole. He’s out of that hole,” Kocher said. “He’s become a harder person to score on and a harder person to stop from scoring.”

He wasn’t the only one that picked apart his opponent. Bishof totally controlled second-year Matt Wahl, pinning him at 6:23. Facing solid fill-ins, Burns came from behind to send fourth-year Keith Witalka home with a 10–4 loss, and Kruzel tied up first-year Tony Doan 8–2.

The same momentary lapses that dropped the Maroons in a 26–13 loss to then-11th-ranked Olivet January 4 gave the Bluejays a decent share of the margin of victory. “Single mistakes” resulted in first-year 125-pounder Ben Hart, second-year 133-pounder Brandon Tillman, and second-year 184-pounder Cameron Soran going down by fall.

“I’m not pleased to see us giving up pin points. It’s something we’re good enough to keep from happening,” Kocher said.

First-year heavyweight Tom Nero lost 18–3 by technical fall to third-year Ward Brady, and third-year 197-pounder Drew Marriott lost 6–4 to fourth-year Nick Metcalf. Metcalf has now won all three of their bouts by two-point margins.

The team continues its packed January schedule Saturday at the Manchester Invite. The host Spartans, who finished one spot ahead of Chicago at the North Central tourney and are currently ranked 24th in the nation, should be among the top teams in the field. Coaches will be looking to Bribriesco, Bishof, Kruzel, and Marriott to take a big leap forward in their last competition before the UAA Championships in Cleveland January 28.

“The juniors are positioned to be pretty dominant wrestlers,” Kocher said. “I have high expectations every time they go.”