February 8, 2008

In defending title, wrestling must put out NYU's flames

For wrestling, now is the time to lay it all on the line—or mat.

Saturday the Maroons (5–4) will head to New York City, looking to extend a conference hot-streak which has seen them capture seven out of the last eight league titles.

With the absence of any fourth-years on the roster, Chicago will rely once again on its young group of starters, anchored by second-year Troy Carlson (165 pounds) and first-year Ryan Hatten (285 pounds). The two have consistently locked down their spots throughout the year, with Hatten scoring many crucial points via pin fall. They will need to continue to carry the torch for the young team as they navigate a tough field at UAAs.

As is the case with any contact sport, injuries remain a top concern for any wrestling team. If a squad fails to field a competitor at any of the 10 weight classes, it forfeits the points for that bout, which can put a team behind the ball even before the start of a dual. Although the Maroons have had their share of sprains and strains along the way, they at least can put their best foot forward with a healthy roster heading into the start of their postseason.

“Most of the guys are pretty healthy right now. We’ve had a lot of guys healing and rehabbing for UAAs but we should have our full lineup for this weekend,” Hatten said.

The Maroons will open up their 2008 conference run with a dual against a strong Case Western (4–3) lead by fourth-year David Manoogian (141 pounds) and third-year Drew Gardella (149 pounds).

“We do not want to look past Case Western—they looked very tough at the Wheaton [Invite],” head coach Leo Kocher said.

If they can get past the Spartans, the Maroons will tussle with the hosts, 15th-ranked NYU, the toughest competition at the three-team championship.

“The matchups with Case and NYU will both be hard-fought ordeals. Case has some very solid wrestlers, and the score could end up being very close,” Carlson said. “As for NYU, they are almost certainly the favorite. Every match will be fiercely contested and if the whole team can do what is needed in each particular match and keep the intensity high, we could very well find ourselves beating NYU.”

This season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Chicago, which has seen the highs of defeating 17th-ranked Olivet College at home and the lows of battling injuries early in the year, and placing 12th out of 13 teams at the Cornell (IA) Invite.

“It has been a long season and now is the time to turn it up a notch. These upcoming few weeks are what matter and I think we are prepared and ready to go,” Carlson said.

Getting prepared has meant Kocher stressing fundamentals, not high intensity in the wrestling room. The whole season has been geared toward having everyone hit his peak at the conference tournament, and an injury to the team now would be devastating.

“The biggest danger right now is overtraining and not being recovered for this Saturday. We will do some pretty good cardio, but try not to strain the muscles too much. We want to feel rested and fresh for the UAAs,” Kocher said.

After giving many of their wrestlers an off-day during last week’s Wheaton Invite, the South Siders should be raring to go when they open up their quest for another UAA title in the Big Apple.

“Everyone wants to win this thing. NYU has a great squad this year but if we wrestle at our best, we can definitely add another championship to our streak,” Hatten said.

“Our only goal is to win. This is the only weekend in the year that really matters,” third-year Zach Matayoshi said.