“Coach Kocher told us of the kind of pride Wheaton takes in their [wrestling] program, and we were going to have to earn every point,” acknowledged first-year Ryan Hoyt after the Maroons’ victory over the Thunder this past Tuesday. Despite Wheaton’s tenacity, wrestling prevailed 27-8 in a dominant showing. A match so uneven, even head coach Leo Kocher granted that “[Wheaton] was a little overmatched.”
Fourth-year Ryan Hatten scored a pinfall victory at the 32-second mark in the 285-pound class, and Hoyt notched an equally effective technical fall in the 149 group, a result of technical superiority and wrestling’s equivalent of a mercy rule.
Second-year James Layton, fourth-year Takumi Mihama, and first-year Jeff Tyburski also recorded wins in their respective weight classes. First-year Jake Schramm won by forfeit at 125 pounds.
After a slow start to the season, Chicago finds itself on a bit of a streak, having won four of the last five dual meets. The surge is partially due to schedule. “The first half of the season saw us competing against several nationally ranked teams with a lineup that was half freshman, and some crucial injuries,” stated Kocher.
The team is still relatively young. With only three upperclassmen competing, the first-years found themselves forced to learn on the job. They have kept pace, as Coach Kocher points out, “Our four freshman who competed took two losses but also had a technical fall and a major decision win.”
It is now generally agreed, the youth of the team is no longer a liability.
“Our young team is finally turning the corner,” Tyburski said.
Hoyt added, “The confidence I’ve developed in the practice room has really helped me these last few weeks, and I’m no longer hesitant using the moves I’ve practiced so much.”
The transformation of a young team to an experienced one does not shield the team from its shortcomings, and the upperclassmen realize that growth will have to continue. Hatten recognizes that the team has some way to go, noting specific areas of improvement including “better conditioning and increased focus on technique.”
However, surely success augurs itself, and visions of a long tunnel can little dare to hamper the optimism of Chicago wrestling. The team competes over the weekend in the Elmhurst Invitational, and though the sprightly spirit of Christmas is past, there is still a jingle in the air for the Maroons.