January 18, 2013

At Elmhurst Invitational, energized Chicago squad looks for repeat and redemption

Following a packed winter break and a 4–3 start to the season, the Maroons look to improve upon their record at the Elmhurst Invitational this Saturday.

Last season, Chicago placed first out of 11 teams in the tournament, finishing just ahead of second-place and host Elmhurst College by a score of 129.5–116.5.

However, the two teams met head-to-head earlier this season, and Elmhurst (8–1) emerged victorious by a score of 32–3.

Third-year Sam Pennisi isn’t worried though, and reminds team followers of Chicago’s past successes at the Invitational. Pennisi qualified for Nationals last season and competed for the NCAA DIII Wrestling Championship.

“We’ve done pretty well the past few years at Elmhurst,” Pennisi said, “so we’re hoping to have a lot of guys winning matches.”

Fourth-year Joeie Ruettiger has arguably been the lynchpin of the team this season, carrying the Maroons to victories against multiple opponents. Along with Pennisi and fourth-year Josh Hotta, Ruettiger wrestled at the Midlands Tournament on December 29 and “competed well,” according to head coach Leo Kocher.

Second-year Mario Palmisano has also had success this season after receiving UAA Rookie of the Year honors last year. When asked about focuses for this Saturday, he emphasized individual preparation.

“Getting ready for competition is a very personal thing that really depends on the individual. People have different ways of preparing themselves and getting their minds right,” Palmisano said. “Once it comes to competition time, however, it is all about just letting your training take over and trusting that you have what it takes to win.”

Pennisi says the Maroons know what to do to finish the season strong.

“We’ve really been focusing on improving our technique,” he said. “The team’s gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season, but from here on out we’re trying to make adjustments to the things we already know how to do.”

After rigorous team training, Pennisi is confident about the rest of the season.

“We’ve been drilling hard,” he said, “and since we have a fairly regular schedule from here on out, we will have plenty of time to prepare for each match.”

Chicago hits the mats at Elmhurst at 9 a.m. on Saturday.