This week, the Maroons kick off their wrestling season and take to the mats against North Central at the Trine University Open.
Against the North Central Cardinals last season, Chicago lost 12–26. The Maroons are looking to change the end result this season.
“We have a few starters out, so it’s going to be tough, but our returners from last year have worked really hard in the offseason to improve. Also our freshman class is full of great wrestlers,” said second-year starter Paul Papoutsis.
The Maroons return second-year All-American Charlie Banaszak, who competes in the 141-pound weight class. Banaszak made an impressive postseason run last year, upsetting multiple higher-seeded competitors and clinching fourth place in his weight class at the NCAA DIII Tournament. It was the first time a Maroon first-year had qualified for NCAAs.
Papoutsis, who competes at 165 pounds, also returns after being named the Rookie of the Year at the UAA tournament last season.
“We have been lifting harder in the gym and working on good fundamental techniques to improve against tough opponents,” Papoutsis said.
Fourth-year Mario Palmisano (197 pounds) also returns this season as a lynchpin for Chicago. He won 11 matches last season, including four pins, and gained a victory for the Maroons at regionals.
The South Siders have brought in eight first-years for the upcoming season. First-year Devan Richter (125 pounds) explained the tough transition to the college wrestling level.
“The biggest adjustment is probably just trying to adapt to a new wrestling environment,” Richter said. “Each wrestling coach essentially has their own ‘school of thought’ when it comes to what technique is the best. After four years of high school, you become accustomed to a certain idea of what technique should and shouldn’t be used in different situations.”
Richter was a state champion in Missouri and is excited to build on his career.
“If you just train to the best of your abilities, things like winning an NCAA championship should just come naturally,” said Richter. “Last year, we had Charlie [Banaszak] as a freshman All-American, and I think that gives all of us incoming freshmen a lot of confidence. We just have to give the program our all, and—if everything goes according to plan—the victories in wrestling should just work themselves out.”
Under head coach Leo Kocher, who begins his 36th year coaching the South Siders, the Maroons will look to take home victories at North Central and Trine. With veteran depth and a second-place finish in the UAA last year, the Maroons are optimistic about the season ahead and are looking to compete with the best this season.
Chicago took on North Central last night and heads to Trine on Saturday.