Coming off of a tough loss against Augustana, the Maroons placed 25th of 32 against stiff competition this weekend at the 2011 Wheaton Invitational with a team score of 18.5, against perhaps the stiffest competition.
“It is quite possibly the toughest tournament in DIII,” said head coach Leo Kocher. “There were a few Division-II powers at the meet like Indianapolis and Lindenwood. So it was a very tough tournament, with a really good group of D-II schools.”
Chicago was also forced to compete without second-year Jim Layton, leaving fourth-year heavyweight Ryan Hatten as the team’s only ranked competitor.
“I would say that probably our best wrestler this season has been Jim Layton, but he wasn’t able to wrestle due to illness. I think he’s 18–4 this year, and not having him there is difficult,” said Kocher. “You go into a tournament of the caliber of Wheaton and you like to have your best wrestler. The only seeded wrestler we had was Ryan.”
Hatten, seeded sixth in his weight class, went 2–2 at the tournament, beating wrestlers from Indianapolis and Augustana. His two losses, against Case Western Reserve and Mount Union, came by only one point each.
“I gave up takedowns late in my two losses that really set me back,” said Hatten. “I need to work on wrestling on the edge and closing out matches.”
Coach Kocher added, “Ryan lost 6–5 to Case. Then he lost on a takedown right at the end to Mount Union with about two seconds left. There were very close matches, and I think in most of them Ryan was in control.”
Second-year Josh Hotta filled in admirably for Layton, going 2–2 for the tournament while competing in the 157-lb. weight class.
“Josh Hotta filled in for Jim, and he collected a fall for us. Every time you get a fall, you add two points to your team total. One of the reasons we finished second at Elmhurst [two weeks ago] was that we had collected a lot of pin points. The guys, when they had the opportunity, pinned their opponents. Josh’s opponent at Wheaton was a pretty tough guy, but he took the opportunity and pinned him,” said Kocher.
Having had nine days to prepare for Wheaton since the previous match against Augustana, Chicago focused on their conditioning. The team now looks forward to the UAA Championships this upcoming weekend.
“We just hit the ground running and tried to get into better shape. I think we made some improvements, but, after this weekend, we have a better idea of what we need to do,” said Hatten. “I thought the team wrestled pretty well at Wheaton. We dropped some close matches and made some [errors] in technical areas, but I think that this team is on the right track.”
Having won the previous two UAA Championships, Chicago aims to win for a third consecutive year. Still, they expect to face toughcompetition from their conference rivals.
“I think that the teams are pretty evenly matched this year. I don’t know if we’re regarded as the favorite, though we might be since we won the last two UAAs,” said Kocher. “The last few years we and NYU have been pretty close. They’ve been second two years in a row and won it three years ago. Case Western has some very strong individuals, but they’ve been struggling to put together some good dual-meet teams. We usually have more strength top-to-bottom than most teams. We’re going there to win it.”
Hatten, a fourth-year, will be one of Chicago’s wrestlers to watch. He has won the UAA heavyweight championship for three years running, and he hopes to defend his title this year.
“I learned not to look past some of my earlier matches in a tournament, and I gleaned some technical things I have to improve upon if I will be competitive with the best,” said Hatten. “I think that the only thing standing in the way of a fourth UAA title is myself. If I show up and wrestle my best, I should bring it home for the team,” said Hatten.