Olivet, ninth-ranked North Central top wrestling in openers

Despite score against Olivet and North Central, Kocher optimistic about new season

By Henry Phillips

The wrestling team opened their 2009-2010 campaign with two losses this week, falling 6-33 to Olivet Tuesday and 15-20 to North Central Wednesday.

“Some [wrestlers] looked a little off,” head coach Leo Kocher admitted after Tuesday’s loss. “We’re a good team…but we’ve got a ways to go.”

Chicago’s 6-33 loss to Olivet on Tuesday was a difficult opening to the season. Following second-year Jimmy Schoettle’s victory in the first match, the Maroons dropped 7 consecutive matches, and Olivet secured the victory before either of Chicago’s two returning conference champions—fourth-year Troy Carlson and third-year Ryan Hatten—stepped into the ring.

The Maroon squad fared somewhat better Wednesday night, winning five of ten matches against ninth-ranked North Central. But while all five Maroon victories came by decision, North Central was able to secure two major decisions and a pin.

This season, the Maroons are looking for continued success from Carlson and Hatten, two of the team’s very best wrestlers.

Besides taking a conference championship, Carlson qualified for the D-III national tournament last season in the 174-pound weight division. This year, however, Carlson is competing in the 197-pound division, a jump he attributes to off-season lifting and a desire to “focus on wrestling,” as opposed to cutting weight.

Carlson’s first regular season match in his new higher weight class ended with a grinding 2–1 victory over Olivet’s Joe Bargerstock in the third overtime period. Although the final score was a little close for comfort, Carlson appeared to be in control the entire match, twice having to overcome controversial decisions by the referee to not award him takedown points.

Carlson also won at North Central, 9–7, making him the lone undefeated wrestler on the squad at 2–0. “I feel good,” he said after his victory Tuesday.

“[I need] to stay in good shape, wear people down, and [not] get frustrated if I’m not going to be scoring like I did in the lower weight classes,” Carlson said of his attrition-based approach.

Heavyweight Ryan Hatten, also a returning conference champion, struggled in his opening match of the season, falling by pin in the third period against Olivet. Hatten was in control early-on, leading 4–2 at the end of the first period, but his dominance faded quickly as the match wore on. Hatten recovered at North Central, securing his first victory of the season 4–2.

Kocher, who is in his 32nd season at the helm of Chicago’s program, spoke optimistically after the defeat by Olivet. “I am happy with the talent level on this team,” he said. “It’s just a question of applying hard work.”

The squad is beginning this year with high expectations after capturing the UAA’s team title last season. Chicago is arguably the UAA’s most successful program, having won 13 team titles during the conference’s 22-year history.

The Wrestling Maroons head to Wisconsin this weekend for the Concordia Open. Their next home meet is Tuesday, when they face UW-Whitewater and Calumet-St. Joseph.