There’s no way around it. It’s going to be a rocky year for wrestling.
After losing a large chunk of the team to preseason injuries, the Maroons overcame the early setback and put up a strong showing in their opener at the highly competitive Northwestern Duals Sunday. The outing eased some of the concerns hovering around the squad, as it managed a 25–12 victory at Wheaton Wednesday to even its dual match record 2–2 despite being slapped with a fresh injury.
The latest knock is a big one for the South Siders. Most likely out for the rest of the season, second-year Zack Matayoshi at 125 joins the other four Maroons currently on the sidelines after hurting his arm at practice Tuesday. Matayoshi lost all three of his matches Sunday, but he was in top form, especially going against ranked third-year Chris Heilman from Cornell (IA). Without anyone to replace Matayoshi at 125, this injury is particularly damaging, and Chicago can expect to start almost every match a six-point underdog.
Quickly hitting the mats after losing Matayoshi, the Maroons and head coach Leo Kocher leaned on their core of fourth-years to lead the team against Wheaton. With stellar bouts late in the match, the veterans delivered and completed a comeback win for Chicago.
Fortunately for the South Siders, the Thunder didn’t have anyone to compete at 125 either, and things got underway with second-year Benny Hart at 133. Defeated 11–3 by third-year Brent Skorup, Hart dropped a major decision that combined with a forfeit at 141 to put Chicago in an early 10–0 hole. Second-year Jack Toussaint stepped up next, taking first-year L.T. Switzer’s place in the lineup at 149 for the night, and fought a close match before falling 4–3.
A high-scoring 20–13 win from first-year phenom Troy Carlson at 157 started to turn the tide for the Maroons and set up the fourth-years’ heroics.
Phil Kruzel at 165 struck a big blow, pinning his opponent with only 10 seconds remaining in the match. Another nailbiter followed Kruzel’s showing, with captain Mike Bishof eking out a 2–1 decision at 174 before Justin Lucas continued his winning ways at 184 with a 7–5 victory. Now 3–1, Lucas’s success is a pleasant surprise as he fills in for classmate Ben Barnes indefinitely. Wrapping up the night after Lucas, Drew Marriot completed the 25–12 comeback for Chicago, taking his match 11–2.
The Wheaton victory is a good sign for this battered team. Giving up points early is costly, but if the Maroons win matches where they are strong, they should be able to keep things close. Still, beating strong teams will be all but impossible with two forfeits in the lineup. They should be getting a boost relatively soon when fourth-year Andrew Bribriesco, an experienced wrestler and a team leader, returns. With third-year Brandon Tillman likely to take longer than initially expected recovering from his knee injury, Bribriesco’s return would be a major victory and pivotal to the team’s success.
Next up for Chicago is the Concordia Invite Saturday.