January 24, 2006

Third-year wrestlers get it done at Invite

For a wrestling squad looking ahead to late-season big meets, a morale booster was required to shake off last week’s disappointing loss at Elmhurst. With focus and help from a trio of third-year stars, they seemed more prepared than ever for next week’s conference finals.

The Maroons tallied 104.5 points for a resounding third-place finish out of 24 teams at the annual Spartan Mat Classic hosted by Manchester University Saturday. Three nationally-ranked teams, including 30th-ranked Ohio Northern (placing fifth with 88 points), 13th-ranked Heidelberg (fourth, 102.5 points), and the host 24th-ranked Spartans (second, 108.5 points) were among the core of a tough pool at the tourney. Despite the strong competition, Chicago wrestlers placed in nine of 10 weight classes. UAA rival Case Western won the tourney with 112.5 total points.

“We scored 104.5 points to Case’s 112.5,” head coach Leo Kocher said. “That is a pretty good finish.”

Third-year 174-pounder Phil Kruzel added to his top-notch run by winning four straight bouts to dominate his class, including two against the top seeded wrestlers in his bracket. Following an 8–5 win over second-seeded Findlay first-year Jeff Hevelka, Kruzel notched a 7–4 decision over first-seeded Mount Union second-year Nick Allerding for the championship.

Two of Kruzel’s classmates also continued to play their part. Andrew Bribriesco, who just six weeks ago was out with a concussion, came in second place in the 141-pound class to bring his record to 8–1 across the past four meets. Bribriesco lost a close 10–8 decision in the finals to Findlay first-year Dave Manoogian after making a key mistake in the final eight seconds of the bout that cost him five points. Bribriesco, going for a takedown, was thrown over by Manoogian for a five-point swing that assured Manoogian’s victory.

“He did a lot of great wrestling up until that point,” Kocher said.

Drew Marriott also put up a fierce fight in the 197-pound bracket, falling only in the championship bout 7–3 to top-seeded Case third-year Thomas Sanders. Marriot, who started the day seeded second, beat third-seeded Rose-Hulman second-year Nick Klasener 8–3 for the eventual second place “Drew is just a single step from being in the top tier of 197-pounders in Division III,” Kocher said.

Marriott, Bribriesco, and Kruzel have been the Maroons’ three toughest competitors of late. All three have established winning records recently, and Bribriesco was one of three named UAA Athlete of the Week following a first-place showing at the North Central Invite. Kruzel has dominated the headlines, however, more than filling the gap left by third-year 184-pounder Ben Barnes, whose season-ending injury after being one of the team’s best performers in the early going put Chicago’s run of successful seasons in jeopardy.

As with most meets this season, the presence of first-year talent was highly visible at Manchester. Third-seeded 149-pounder Ben Hart went 3–1 to earn a third-place finish, walloping fourth-seeded Rose-Hulman first-year Jacob Wise 12–4. Zach Matayoshi, a 125-pounder, secured fifth place and 184-pounder Justin Lucas ended the day seventh. Matayoshi and Lucas were not seeded. Fifth-seeded heavyweight Tom Nero notched a 6–2 decision over Ohio Northern second-year Adam Kosch to earn a seventh-place finish.

The day wasn’t as successful for two veteran Maroons, third-year Mike Bishof and second-year Brandon Tillman. Bishof, who entered the day seeded third in the 165-pound class, fell 3–2 in overtime against Heidelberg Student Princes Club first-year Aaron Jonhenry to come in fourth place. This was the second weekend in a row that Bishof lost in a bout for place in overtime, a sign that he is still in fighting form.

“Those are the type of losses that can be turned around, and I expect Mike will,” Kocher said.

The unseeded 133-pounder Tillman handily beat Heidelberg first-year Kurt Froelich to come in fifth.

The Maroons were unable to score points in the 149-pound weight class, as starter and first-year Jeff Harman sat out ill.

The Manchester Invite gave the Maroons’ grapplers an opportunity to perfect their skills and boost their confidence before a series of tough championship meets in the coming weeks. They will head to Cleveland Friday for the UAA Championships, where they will face a cruising NYU (11–2–1) squad and will get a chance for revenge against a tough Case team.

“Based on the tournament results, it will be a very close meet,” Kocher said.