January 11, 2005

Wrestlers take down all-division competition in Iowa

Fresh off an overtime win and working on a four-match winning streak against Division III opponents, fourth-year Sean Barnes was not about to let a little thing like competing against one of the best wrestlers in the country slow him down. Barnes's 3-2 decision over top-seeded Bryan Morgan of Millikin University, the sixth-ranked heavyweight in Division III, capped his 3-0 day at the Cornell (Iowa) Invite and an extremely successful day for the Maroons. Chicago wrestlers earned 89.5 points and finished third of 13 teams, with seven wrestlers placing.

"Sean moved from 197 pounds to heavyweight this season, and he's been one of our most pleasant surprises on the team this year. He's been competitive, and lost some close matches," said head coach Leo Kocher, noting his victories against Division I wrestlers.

Second-years Anthony Bribriesco and Ben Barnes each dropped two-point decisions to the top seed in their respective championship bouts at 141 pounds and 184 pounds, second-year Mike Bishoff came in fourth at 165 pounds, and fourth-years Ai Nguyen and Dmitry Shuster and second-years Jason Besse and Drew Marriott all scored sixth place finishes to round out the placers for the Maroons.

The showing is a positive sign for the team, which stands at 3-3 in dual meets and is ranked 27th in the nation despite a 23-9 home loss to North Central and a disappointing performance at the Midlands Tournament on December 29 and 30.

"We took some losses at Midlands, but that's a tough meet, with a lot of Division I wrestlers. We were looking to learn there," Kocher said. "We were looking more for results this time around, to finish pretty high."

The tournament featured a number of the top teams in Division III. Chicago finished ahead of third-ranked Luther College, which came in fifth place with 71 points. The team championship was taken by 29th-ranked Coe, with 147 points, followed by 21st-ranked Augustana, with 105.

"You get some really strong Wisconsin and Iowa wrestlers at the Cornell Invite. It's a tough meet," Kocher said.

The Maroons have a busy week ahead of them. They travel to face a historically shallow Wheaton team (2-2) on Tuesday.

"Wheaton usually has a couple of good individuals, but isn't that great all the way up and down the lineup. It's hard to figure where they are," Kocher said.

The Maroons close out their dual meet season at home against a 9-3 Elmhurst squad that features nationally ranked Rick Lamas at 157 pounds and Matt Sassolino at 184. The Blue Jays are among the NCAA's national title contenders.

"Elmhurst is one of 30 teams in Division III right now that might beat any other on any given day. They're 13th in the country, and they beat Wabash, who we handled, and Wisconsin-Whitewater, who beat us. We just want to compete with them, and get some experience for our young starters before the UAA Championship," he said. "It's really wild across the board right now. It's going to be tough for the ranking committee."