With a critical stretch of the season just ahead, Mike Bishof isn't interested in breaking a sweat.
The second-year 165-pounder flew through his bracket, going 4-0 to pace the 25th-ranked Maroons to a third-place finish at Saturday's Manchester Invite. Bishof has now won 9 of his last 11 individual matches over two dual meets and two tournaments.
"He was pretty dominant," head coach Leo Kocher said. "He had one fall, and didn't give up points on anything but escapes the whole tournament."
Bishof was the Maroons' only weekend champion, but three of his teammates also made their brackets' finals.
Second-year 174-pounder Phil Kruzel, second-year 197-pounder Drew Marriott, and fourth-year heavyweight Sean Barnes all dropped decisions in their final matches to score second place.
"We did pretty well in that respect. Drew made it to the finals for the first time in his collegiate career, and Sean dropped a 3-2 decision to a very good opponent in Manchester's James Parke," Kocher said.
Other Maroon placers included fourth-year Ai Nguyen (third at 125 pounds) and first-year 133-pounder Brandon Tillman, second-year 157-pounder Paul Kremsky, and second-year 184-pounder Ben Barnes, who all finished fourth.
The team placed third overall, behind Manchester and 21st-ranked Wabash and ahead of an 18th-ranked Ohio Northern squad.
"We went without a couple of our top starters, so I'm not disappointed at our showing. That really precluded us from having the performance we could," said Kocher, adding that "It's still a good warm-up for the UAAs."
Kocher held out second-year 149-pounder Jason Besse for the second-straight weekend to allow him more time to recover from injury, and second-year 141-pounder Andrew Bribriesco stayed home as well. Bribriesco had come in second in his weight class at the North Central Invite last Saturday.
"We're hoping to get both of them back and healthy for the UAAs, so we can have our best lineup," Kocher said.
Health issues may be the critical factor for Saturday's conference championship meet, as opponents appear to have similarly held out wrestlers recently.
Chicago faces off against Case Western Reserve (1-9) and NYU (8-4) in a dual-meet round robin in New York City. Wins over both teams would clinch a fifth-straight UAA title.
"Case is a good team, but they look like they may have had some injuries. Everyone tries to show up at full strength for UAAs, so their starters may be back in the lineup," Kocher said.
"NYU still might be the tougher of the two opponents. They've been fairly competitive against Division I and II opponents. These meets have been close over the years, coming down to the last one or two matches," he added. "But if we can put the lineup together that day, we should bring it home."
The UAA Championship will mark the end of team competition for the Maroons, who will turn to the NCAA Regional meet February 19. Chicago will face off individually against wrestlers from 15 other teams, including top-ranked Augsburg. In the end, 21 individuals across ten weight classes will advance to the NCAA Championship in early March. Wrestlers will likely have to finish in the top two of their weight class to move on.
"We had one winner last year, but we had a number of guys place at that meet, including both Sean and Ben Barnes," Kocher said. "A number of our wrestlers should be able to do that again."