Defending their home mats for the first time of the season, wrestling was unable to hold back the competition, suffering a tough loss to North Central Tuesday at Ratner.
Falling on Chicago turf for the first time in seven meets, the Maroons found themselves hard pressed to keep up with seventh-ranked North Central. Despite a slew of tough matches, the final score was a relatively close 26–15, with the South Siders’ veterans making the biggest contributions throughout the night. Determination was not enough to stop a North Central roster filled with nationally ranked competitors.
“North Central has strong people at every weight class,” head coach Leo Kocher said. “There is not a lot of roster manipulation to do when they are strong everywhere—we just line up and go.”
Kicking off the night, the South Siders suffered a series of losses in the lower weight classes. North Central provided heavy opposition in the middle of their lineup at the 125-pound and 149-pound weight classes, where fourth-years Zach Matayoshi and Nick Bartley fell to their opponents 6–0 and 16–5. Battling to the wire at 133 and 141 were fourth-year Ben Hart and his brother, second-year Matt Hart, almost evenly matched against their opponents down to the last round. Losing 3–0 and 5–2 respectively, the Hart brothers had extremely technical matches against experienced opponents, and both seemed just unable to turn the tides of their matches.
“I think Ben and Matt’s bouts were winnable. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them reverse those results down the road against these particular opponents,” Kocher said.
With things looking bleak for the Maroons, fourth-year Spencer Burns stepped onto the mats for his 157-pound match-up against third-year Cowan Brown. Footwork and movement dominated the matchup, with Burns looking for openings as he maneuvered to force Brown on the defensive. After three tight rounds, Burns maintained the lead, shutting out any offensive opportunities for Brown and clinching the match, 3–0.
Following Burns’ win, however, North Central struck back decisively, with fourth-year Ben Youel pinning his lighter opponent, first-year Carter Lorant, at 4:59. Making a statement right back to the North Central bench, third-year Troy Carlson swept in against third-year Greg Schroeder at 174 to do his part for a Chicago comeback. Immediately spotting a weak point, Carlson shot in, scoring an 18-second pin to move Chicago closer to a comeback.
Despite a forfeit to fourth-year Tom Nero in the heavy weights, the Maroons were unable to turn things around in the final two bouts. With second-year David Kneisel and fourth-year Justin Lucas losing 9–1 and 8–3, Chicago ended the night in defeat.
The loss to North Central aside, the team looks forward to a strong year, improving on its overall performance from the previous season. Depth will be the carrying factor for the squad, with a versatile mix of rookies and veterans giving the team a lot of options in its meets. Injuries will not be as crippling as last year, although fourth-year Jeff Harman’s career-ending injury is a serious blow to the middle weight classes.
“The nice thing is we have depth right now to keep a strong lineup out there. That kind of talent depth also makes for great practices—you have to have that if you want to be a nationally competitive program,” Kocher said.
Opening up the season facing the seventh and eighth ranked teams in the nation makes this one of the toughest schedules in the team’s history. Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Chicago will enter its elite wrestlers into the Concordia Open on this Saturday, the first of a blitz of five matches over December.
“This year is the hardest schedule I can remember, and we will get several more shots at ranked opponents in dual meets this year,” Kocher said. “But ranked in the top 10 or 20 is where we want to be, and we have to wrestle at this caliber to do that.”