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The University of Chicago wrestling squad got off to a rough start Tuesday, falling 35–6 in a duel meet against Olivet College. The Maroons won twice in the ten contested matches. Third-year Johansen Amin scored the Maroons’ first win with in a 5–3 decision, as fourth-year Chris Oster won the very next match 4–2. However, it was all downhill afterwards as the Maroons dropped the next six matches, four by decision and two by pin.
The slow start is nothing new for head coach Leo Kocher and his squad. Last year, the Maroons lost to Olivet by nearly the same margin, falling 33–6. They promptly went on to win the UAA championship for the second year in a row and defeat several nationally ranked opponents.
“I do not, and more importantly our wrestlers do not, worry about being a little slow out of the gate. It is a long season,” said Coach Kocher.
Oster agreed: “We don’t really see the duel against Olivet as an indicator of how our season will go. Olivet is always a tough opponent and has matches in before we wrestle them, and it’s tough coming in and wrestling that more experienced competitor right away.”
However, Kocher admitted that this team doesn’t quite have the firepower of last year’s team due to its youth. Half the Maroon starters are first-years. “It has to be considered a rebuilding year anytime a team starts 50-percent freshmen,” said Coach Kocher. “The important thing is to stay positive, keep moving forward as a team, and to peak at the UAAs and NCAA Qualifier in February.”
The Maroon freshmen have had some help from their outstanding fourth-year leaders. Kocher was quick to compliment his seniors, saying that the positive attitudes of the first years–despite losing to Olivet–can mainly be attributed to “our upperclassmen and a large senior class that has been offering them real leadership and support throughout the season”.
The Maroons began practicing on October 2, their meet this past Tuesday against Olivet coming after just a month and a half of training. By comparison, Olivet had already wrestled in two meets before facing the Maroons. “[We start wrestling] pretty late,” said Oster. “We have been practicing for almost seven weeks now, and it is nice to finally get out there and show what we have been working on.”
An integral part of what the Maroons have been working on is a new conditioning program designed to keep the Maroons fresh late in matches. According to Oster, the benefits were “immediately apparent” in the match against Olivet. “Even though this was our first meet and Olivet’s third, our conditioning definitely helped us outpace Olivet in the third period,” said Oster.
The Maroons’ conditioning was apparent in Oster’s match: With only thirty seconds remaining in the final period, Oster managed to take down his opponent for two points to seal the 4–2 victory. The Maroons are hoping that this newfound conditioning will help them at the hotly-contested Concordia Invitational this Saturday.
“Concordia is a very large, strong tournament. There are typically more than 30 entries per weight class. The field usually includes perennial NCAA Champion Wartburg and Division II and NAIA teams,” said Kocher. Despite the strength of competition, Kocher expects the same thing out of his wrestlers that he expects every time they step on the mat: “I am looking for our guys to bring their best and wrestle hard.”