Kruzel leads wrestling at Concordia Open

By Paul Kremsky

Taking part in its first individual tournament of the season, wrestling set a high standard for itself and kept its season moving at a fast pace.

Led by strong play from their upperclassmen, the Maroons placed six athletes out of eight at the Concordia Open Saturday in Wisconsin as they continued their impressive start to the season. Leading the team was fourth-year Phil Kruzel, who took first at 165, beating out first- and second-seeded opponents after being spotted at fifth. The veteran now boasts the team’s best record at 8–1 on the year after winning all five of his bouts. His sole loss on the season came in the opening match against DI rival Northwestern.

Chipping in with strong performances were fourth-years captain Mike Bishof and Drew Marriot. Placing fourth and sixth, they continued to solidify their status as the rocks of the team along with Kruzel. Regularly placing at tournaments, the senior trio has served as a positive example, demonstrating the ability to step it up when it matters most.

“One key thing they do that makes them so successful is they are always looking for ways to improve,” second-year Jack Toussaint said. “They never settle for satisfactory performances. Their work ethic is an example for the rest of the team.”

Coming out ahead of Chicago’s big three, second-year Ben Hart also made the finals at 133, taking second place. He was only seconds away from completing a takedown at the end of the finals match before falling short at 4–3.

The story of the day, though, was first-year 157-pounder Troy Carlson. Entering the tournament as an unseeded entrant, Carlson lost his first match of the day to bring his season record to 2–3. From that point on, he won seven consecutive matches, ending up taking third in the tournament. With only one of those matches ending in a pin, that translates to nearly a solid hour of wrestling over the course of the day. It was also the highest a Chicago first-year has placed at Concordia since Dexter Hough-Snee (A.B. ’06) took second in 2003.

Second-year heavyweight Tom Nero put on a similar show. Despite a high seed, he was pinned in the first round but went on to win his next seven matches. Along the way, he defeated the wrestler who had pinned him earlier. He also beat the fifth-ranked wrestler in DIII and won his consolation finals match by an 11–5 margin.

“He gets better every time out,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

When all was said and done, the day was a major step in the right direction for the squad. The Maroons had six athletes place at the meet—a total higher than 29th-ranked Augustana (three), 24th-ranked Platteville (three), or 22nd-ranked Whitewater (five). The Maroons have this week off before returning the Hyde Park for their home opener November 28 against UW–Whitewater.

“We still have work to do but this tournament shows we’ve come a long way from last year and the future looks bright,” Toussaint said.