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November 27, 2007

Injuries hold back wrestling’s strong potential

Maroon wrestling has to get healthy if they hope to repeat as UAA champions in February.

On Wednesday, the Maroons (1–1) faced their first test from a nationally ranked foe when they took on 19th ranked North Central College (1–0). When all was said and done in Naperville, they had lost a 30–6 decision.

This was perhaps not an accurate representation of Chicago’s wrestling fortitude; the South Siders came into the meet missing a quintet of third-years due to injury.

“Zach Matayoshi, Tom Nero, Jack Toussaint, Spencer Burns, and Lance Contento are all healing up from injuries right now. We are really looking forward to their getting back in the wrestling room,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

Missing these veterans, inexperience ultimately hindered the Maroons as they entered the nest of the North Central Cardinals.

“We beat this team last season with wins by four seniors—but this year we had five starters who wrestled their first collegiate match less than a week before. It makes a difference. Nevertheless, I thought winning 6 out of 10 matches in our duel with North Central was possible,” Kocher said.

Third-year Jeff Harman and first-year Ryan Hatten produced Chicago’s lone wins.

Picking up his second victory in as many tries this season, Harman topped the 149-pound weight class by a count of 5–1 over second-year Jake Sandborn.

“I wanted to wrestle an all-around solid match, and it paid off. My opponent was very tough on top, so I just tried to keep good position and avoid making any mistakes. The turning point of the match was the reversal in the second period; it gave me a 4–1 lead and shifted the momentum in my favor,” Harman said.

Missing all of last year’s campaign with a back injury, Harman has marked a stellar start to this year’s campaign with his two wins.

Off to another hot start, Hatten picked up the first dual-meet victory of his young career in the heavyweight division (285 pounds), fighting for a 5–2 win over fellow first-year Andrew Mendoza. Hatten wrestled in the place of the Maroons’ injured stalwart third-year Tom Nero, and made the most of his opportunity.

The Maroons also received a strong effort from first-year Matt Hart, who fell 5–2 to Cardinal third-year Nathan Devaux at the 141-pound weight class. Second-year Nick Bartley also fell in a close 3–2 match at 157 pounds to second-year Cowan Brown.

“We had some pretty competitive performances. Besides our two winners, two other wrestlers in their first year of collegiate competition, Matt Hart and Nick Bartley, were both in positions to win at the end of their matches,” Kocher said.

Entering the meet without third-year Zach Matayoshi after he suffered a shoulder injury during their season opener against Wheaton, Chicago knew they would be forced to forfeit the 125-pound weight division. This automatic loss to start the match left the Maroons staring down an early 6–0 deficit, but the team seemed unfazed.

“In wrestling, all you can do is focus on your own match and take care of your own business. If you do that, the team score will take care of itself,” Harman said.

The Maroons have an ample 10 weeks to get back to full strength before traveling to New York City to defend their UAA title at NYU. Currently boasting a ranking of 24th in the country, the hosts seem like the conference team to beat this season.

“We have a good team here; if we can get and stay healthy, I like our chances at defending our UAA title,” Kocher said.

The Maroons’ next challenge comes Wednesday at Ratner, where they will meet the Wabash Little Giants (0–1), who come fresh off of a 44–0 drumming courtesy of D-I Indiana University.