Coaches rank wrestlers 25th in Division III

By Sean Ahmed

After a disappointing, sickness-riddled loss at Elmhurst on Wednesday, the 25th-ranked wrestling team bounced back with three out of five possible wins at the 2004 Budd Whitehill NCAA Division III Duals Friday and Saturday at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. The performance brought the team’s record to 6-3 in dual meets for the season and convinced the National Wrestling Coaches Association to keep Chicago at #25 for the second-straight week.

Missing two starters due to sickness-third-years Dimitry Shuster (2-9, overall) at 174 lbs and Sean Barnes (14-4) at 197-the wrestling team lost a 30-13 decision to Elmhurst (2-5). The replacements in those two spots were both pinned, costing the team a total of 12 points. The team overall also struggled. They lost seven out of 10 matches, including all of the six heaviest weight classes.

“We had six first years in the starting line up out of 10, and it showed,” said fourth-year Nick Kehagias (11-3), who wrestled at 125 lbs. “I was able to pin my guy in the second period with a cradle, and one of our first year tough-guys, Andrew Bribriesco (8-3), pulled out a nice victory at 141 lbs. But that wasn’t enough to overcome the obstacle of missing Barnes and Shuster. Too bad we don’t get a second meet with Elmhurst because it would be a different story.”

On Friday at the tournament, the Maroons had several close matches: a 21-14 loss to 19th-ranked Lycoming, an 18-17 victory over Heidelberg College, and a 21-18 loss to 9th-ranked John Carroll University.

“Our two losses were to the 7th seed and 3rd seed in the tournament on Friday, and both of those were close meets that included a loss in overtime and one in the last two seconds of regulation. A 21-14 win is not a very comfortable win for the other team,” Coach Leo Kocher said. “It just goes to show that teams very close in the rankings often have matches that can turn on a single bout, which is what happened against John Carroll. In one match, our wrestler was winning 9-1 in points but got reversed and pinned—a nine-point reversal in the overall team score.”

“The important thing was that we were very competitive against ranked teams, especially with half of our team being first-year wrestlers,” Kocher added.

In Saturday’s action, Chicago defeated 28th-ranked State University of New York at Oswego 23-15 and the University of Scranton 36-6.

The upperclassmen on the team turned in the strongest performances this past weekend. Fourth-years Tim Daly (9-2) and Kehagias each finished 3-1, and fourth-year Ryan Hlinak (8-6) and third-year Barnes each finished 4-1.

“This weekend, Daly and Hlinak were both very competitive in good matches. Kehagias also did very well for us despite entering the tournament with a strained knee. I’ve been really pleased with our seniors this year,” Kocher said.

Others also stepped up their efforts this weekend and enjoyed success. “I was impressed with all of our first years,” said Kehagias. “Ben Barnes seemed to break out of his confident shell, going 2-2 in his first action this year. Jason Besse (6-7) continued to impress by having success at a higher weight class-157 as opposed to the normal 149. Also, Andrew Bribriesco (8-3) was undefeated at 2-0.”

The team is now getting ready for the individual portion of their schedule, which begins on January 31 with the UAA Championships at Ratner Athletic Center and also includes the Great Lakes Regional Division III National Qualifying Tournament, as well as NCAA Division III Championships in February. The focus in the daily two-hour practice is teaching and honing fundamentals, as well as introducing new techniques in preparation for the team’s toughest competition of the season. Semi-weekly, cardiovascular conditioning in the morning rounds out the workout regimen.

The next dual meet for the team will be Thursday at Henry Crown Field House against Gettysburg (1-4) at 7 p.m.