Kruzel, wrestling, show class at Cornell

By Tim Murphy

With a schedule full to the brim with ranked programs and perennial powers, wrestling was sure to take some lumps this season. After enduring some tough losses in the early going, the Maroons showed what they’re capable of with a strong weekend showing in Iowa.

Taking on top competition from around the Midwest, the Maroons earned a number of strong performances to kick off winter quarter in a big way. Buena Vista, ranked 20th in DIII, was the top-placing team at the event, which featured five nationally-ranked programs. The Maroons placed sixth out of 14 squads at the Cornell Invite Saturday in Cedar Rapids. Leading the way for Chicago was fourth-year Phil Kruzel, who battled his way to a first-place finish in the 165 pound weight class.

Entering the invite with a far from inspiring 2–6 dual meet record, the Maroons’ early-season record was not indicative of the overall quality of the squad, and they quickly went about dispelling any notion to the contrary Saturday. The second-seeded Kruzel knocked off three seeded opponents en route to the title. He got off to a strong start early, pinning his opponent easily in the first round before advancing past Buena Vista second-year Tyler Winkelman 10–6 in his second match for a spot in the quarterfinals.

The veteran cruised past Morningside fourth-year Erin Hume 7–2 in the third round, then edged the third seed, Coe second-year Bryon Grothus, 10–8 in the semis before capping things off with a thrilling 4–2 victory over the pre-tournament favorite, William Penn fourth-year Nate Stirgus.

In the 174 division, fourth-year Mike Bishof won his first two matches before falling to the fourth seed, fourth-year Adam Dorner of UW-–Oshkosh. In the third-place bracket, he won two more before falling to third-seeded fourth-year Marcus Schneider of Coe. Bishof beat Dorner in a hard-fought rematch of the earlier contest, 11–9 for fifth place.

Continuing the strong performances from Chicago’s upperclassmen, fourth-year and second-seeded Ben Barnes opened things off with three straight victories in 184 before falling to Coe second-year Greg Lalla, the third seed, 1–0 in the semis. Barnes dropped his next two consolation matches to finish in sixth.

In the heavyweight division, fifth-seeded second-year Tom Nero won three matches after losing his opener, then battled past sixth-seeded fourth-year Kiel Ploen of Morningside for fifth place.

With no matches scheduled in the next two weeks, the Maroons and head coach Leo Kocher will have plenty of time to prepare for the Elmhurst Invite January 20. Chicago fell 2–19 to the 21st-ranked Blue Jays at Ratner Wednesday.