January 11, 2008

Wrestling’s stacked lineup struggles at Elmhurst

It’s been a slow start into the new year for wrestling. After wrapping up the fall by hanging on for a 17–16 edging of Wabash, the Maroons have stumbled lately and now face an uphill climb in 2008.

Their lineup packed with Chicago’s best wrestlers for Tuesday’s match with 26th-ranked and undefeated Elmhurst (3-0), the squad was ready to rumble. Yet when all was said and done, the Maroons came out with only 3 wins in 10 matches as the Bluejays toppled the Maroons with a score of 25–13. The loss evened the squad’s record at 2–2 with a tough stretch of dual matches ahead.

“I think it is safe to say that a few of our guys did not have good matches, and two or three of those is all it takes to lose a dual meet against Elmhurst,” head coach Leo Kocher said.

Opening the night in true Maroon fashion, third-year Zach Matayoshi grabbed a daring victory at the 165 -pound class, pinning his first-year opponent Jacob Santiago. Quick thinking on the mat gave Matayoshi the final advantage when he spotted a crack in Santiago’s defenses with only seconds remaining. Taking the opening, he quickly secured the pin and the match.

After this strong opening, fortune quickly left the Maroons’ side, as Elmhurst went on a hot streak and took all four of the next matches.

First-year Matt Hart and his third-year brother, Ben, both narrowly fell in two hard-fought matches at the 141- and 133-pound classes, but the meet was far from out of Chicago’s hands. Despite Elmhurst’s advantage in victories, the score remained almost even thanks to Matayoshi’s pin. Entering the middle weight classes, though, the wheels came off the cart as second-year Nick Bartley and third-year Jeff Harman were decidedly defeated. Bartley, dealing with second-year Charlie Curran, lost 21–6 by a technical fall in the third round, while Harman fared little better, losing 18–5 to fourth-year Kyle Katz in a major decision. The losses put the Maroons in a strategically disastrous position for the rest of the night. Knowing full well of the dominance of Elmhurst’s wrestlers in the middleweights, Kocher had hoped for the lightweights to triumph. With Elmhurst eking out victories against both the Hart brothers, Chicago was put into a huge hole from which they would struggle to escape for the remainder of the meet.

Giving his squad an opportunity to regain some momentum, Carlson hung on for a close 5–1 win over third-year Tony Doan. Carlson slowly accumulated points over the course of the match, besting the Elmhurst veteran with his superior technical mastery in what would be the highlight of the meet for Chicago. Roused by Carlson’s victory, third-year Lance Contento followed with a tough battle that ended with his opponent barely scraping out the 8–4 win after a harrowing three rounds. Third-year Justin Lucas entered the ring next and dominated first-year Frank Savegnago 14–3 to keep the meet still within the Maroons’ grasp, yet the next bout finally squashed Chicago’s hope of sneaking away with the W. In a clash of experienced wrestlers, third-year Jimmy Dooley faced off against fourth-year Bob Hohn in the 197-pound weight class. Suffering a 12–3 slamming, Dooley undid the good of Lucas’s victory and sealed the Maroons’ fate.

Wrapping up the night, a heavyweight clash between first-years Ryan Hatten and Mark Corsello let the Maroons head back to the locker room with a brighter outlook. Despite getting clipped by Corsello 6–2, Hatten, filling in for heavyweight regular Tom Nero, exhibited a level of experience and skill, impressing his head coach.

“Ryan Hatten seems to get better every time out,” Kocher said. “He wrestled a talented opponent to a close match.”

Losing to Elmhurst is a setback for the Maroons, who will square off against six nationally-ranked teams in their seven remaining meets. Included in that schedule is UAA rival NYU, who the squad will see in less than a month at UAA championships in New York.

“We need every man in the program to step up and help us put the best team possible out on the mat,” Kocher said.

Looking to shake off Tuesday’s loss, the Maroons are back in action tonight at the North Central Invite in Naperville. A series of tough opponents will welcome the squad, but the daunting competition hasn’t stopped Chicago from setting high goals for the meet.

“I would like us to exceed the seeding we received [at the tournament],” Kocher said. “Outperforming your seeds is a good measurement of tournament success.”