It isn’t easy getting a pulse on this year’s wrestling team. While a strong veteran presence and a crop of newcomers provide the squad with a recipe for success, the Maroons face an imposing season with teams at the top of DI and DIII on the schedule. They have also already experienced early setbacks after a rough hit from the injury bug before practices began.
The two biggest injuries belong to two of the fourth-years, Andrew Bribriesco, 141 lbs, and Ben Barnes, 184 lbs. Between the two of them, they have five winning seasons and multiple regional placings. Bribriesco is due back in a few weeks, but Barnes shouldn’t be on the mat any earlier than January. These two wrestlers are proving difficult to replace in the lineup, especially because third-year Brandon Tillman, the logical backup at 141 lbs, is injured as well. Second-year Jeff Harman, a starter last year, could also miss his season thanks to a back injury.
“We’re a team of walking wounded,” head coach Leo Kocher joked.
That was six weeks and a few surgeries ago, but the team still has reasons to be optimistic with all of last year’s starters, including five regional placers, returning. The large base of fourth-year and second-year classes is joined by a promising group of first-years, who could be called on to produce early. If the rookies can fill in holes at the 141, 149, and 184, the veterans can take care of business down the rest of the lineup to ensure a good season for the Maroons.
“A good number of our first-years were state rankers,” Coach Kocher said. “Four of them were multiple state placers.”
The most interesting part of the lineup will be 165 and 174. Fourth-years Phil Kruzel and Mike Bishof were rocks of the team in the two weight classes last year, and they will be again this season, even though they switched weight classes.
“I think that this will be a good move for both of them,” Kocher said.
This new placement leaves second-year Spencer Burns out of the mix, and it may fall on him to bump up to 184, or Kocher may get creative and bump Bishof or Kruzel. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how the team copes with the swath of injuries early in the season.
Spotlight on Mike Bishof
The fourth-year was the team’s natural choice for captain this season after leading the squad in points scored, wins, matches wrestled, and tournament placings in 2006. He also led in wins, matches wrestled, tournament placings, and at regionals, where he took third.
Coming off of two winning seasons, including over 20 wins last year and a third-place finish at regionals, there is no reason to think Bishof won’t repeat 2005’s success.
“Mike has really pushed himself to improve his durability and endurance,” said head coach Leo Kocher, citing a tournament last season where Bishof wrestled six matches.
As far as durability, Bishof placed in every tournament last year, an extremely difficult feat.