SPORTS

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February 6, 2007

Wrestling wins UAA title, eyes Regionals

With a juggled lineup, fighting down to the last minute, wrestling and fourth-year Drew Marriott pulled out a comeback that put the Maroons back on top of the UAA.

Marriott was the last one on the mat, but there were many clutch performances along the way. Helping put Chicago in position to reclaim its league title, fourth-year Andrew Bribriesco sparked the squad’s efforts against NYU early on, and first-year Troy Carlson nailed a crucial 4–3 victory over a Case Western veteran. Fourth-year Ben Barnes put in one of the most impressive efforts, winning a close, pivotal match by riding his opponent.

“It was a team win, all the way through,” fourth-year Phil Kruzel said after the match. “Everyone contributed; even the losses were good losses to keep it close. Everyone stepped up.”

Getting a chance to scope the competition, Chicago watched the first match of the day play out between NYU and Case. After seeing the Violets squash the Spartans 29–7, the Maroons prepared for their first bout, with second-year Zach Matytoshi set to take on Case second-year Tim Sykes.

Thirty seconds into the showdown Matayoshi pinned Sykes, and the rest of the squad followed his lead. Up and down the lineup, wrestlers chipped in solid wins in a full team effort, but second-year Benny Hart at 133, Carlson at 157, and fifth-ranked Kruzel at 165 posted some of the most stunning decisions.

Hart continued the team’s domination after Matayoshi’s crushing blow in the opener when he pulled off a nearly perfect 8–0 win for the major. Holding on to a 4–3 decision, Carlson won the first close match of the day. That performance, combined with an overpowering match later against NYU, netted Carlson the Rookie of the Year award by the end of the day. Finally, Kruzel, on the tail end of one of the best seasons Chicago has seen in recent years, defeated fourth-year Mike Sanchez 11–4.

With the Spartans’ forfeit at 197 and the match already in hand at 37–11, Chicago forfeited at heavyweight to save Marriot for when it counted in a winner-take-all battle against NYU.

The squad would definitely need Marriott in top form against the Violets. Usually competing as a 197-pounder, the veteran weighed in as a heavyweight to replace second-year Tom Nero, who injured his collarbone last weekend. Moving Marriott up a class meant 184-pounders Barnes or second-year Justin Lucas would need to fill in at 197. The rearranged lineup that didn’t seem to hold the squad back against the Spartans would face a much tougher test against a stronger NYU roster.

After jumping out to a great start in the Case match, the Maroons fell behind early to the Violets. Matayoshi lost his match 5–0, and Hart was stunned by second-year Joe Ranzenbach and pinned in the second period. Two matches in, Chicago faced a 9–0 hole.

Picking a good day for a comeback, Bribriesco brought the momentum back to Chicago with a 12–3 pounding at 141. Although he has been injured most of the year, Bribriesco came out with a fury Saturday. Throughout the day he controlled his matches in all positions and won through a combination of smooth takedowns and bar-arms on top.

Recently recovered wrestlers proved key contributors to the squad’s UAA crown. Injury has sidelined third-year Brandon Tillman for the entire season, and he hit the mat for the first time on 2006–2007 campaign Saturday. A natural 141-pounder, Tillman was not only asked to bump up a weight class, but also had to square off against eighth-ranked fourth-year Gene Kobilanski. Although Tillman lost out in a 15–3 thrashing, he showed what could be in store next year when he suits up as one of two fourth-years.

Rallied by Tillman’s outing, the Maroons went on a tear and started closing in on the Violets. Carlson struck the first blow with a staggering 20 points in his win at 157, cutting NYU’s advantage to 13–8. Kruzel and Bishof followed with wins at 165 and 174—as they have been doing all season—to give Chicago its first lead of the match at 14–13.

The Maroons didn’t stay ahead for too long, though. Lucas was majored at 184, putting Chicago down by three with only two matches to go. The UAA championship on the line, the squad would need to win at 197 and at the heavyweight to walk away with league title in hand.

Pressure to keep the team in the running fell on Barnes and Marriott, with both wrestling in heavier classes than usual. Barnes started slowly against second-year Alex Chianurashvili and battled back in the final period after letting Chianurashvili escape. Down 1–0 with less than a minute left, Barnes managed a narrow escape and then hit a reversal. He stayed on top for 45 seconds, stealing the 2–1 win and setting up the dramatics for Marriott in the final contest.

A heavyweight when he first started his career, Marriott had much more success in Hyde Park since dropping down to 197. In the last match of the UAA Championships, Marriott wrestled like a 197, and it gave him an edge over an opponent 80 pounds heavier. The same fireman’s carry that secured a win over North Central last week gave him the first two takedowns, plus back points, to give him and his team an early 7–2 lead. From there on out, he managed to ride his opponent, scoring another takedown to get to a 10–4 win and pushing the Maroons past NYU for a 20–17 final score.

“Last year we lost 29–6 to NYU, and they kept most of their squad. It was a tremendous performance,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

After pulling off the comeback, Bribriesco, Carlson, Kruzel, Bishof, and Barnes were named to the All–UAA Team. Four of the five Chicago fourth-years received the nod, and Marriot, the lone man out, was probably robbed.

As big a win as this was for the team as a whole, it was bigger for the five fourth-years. The group posted an 8–0 mark on the day and will have a chance to continue their careers in two weeks at Regionals.