After clinching the UAA title on February 5, wrestling placed eighth of 15 at the Great Lakes Regional at Lakeland College in Wisconsin this Saturday. Bolstered by top-six finishes from 4 of its 10 competitors, Chicago earned 42.5 team points against strong competition.
“Our regional is a 15-school tournament that included wrestling teams ranked 3rd, 6th, 7th, 22nd, and 23rd in the NCAA,” head coach Leo Kocher said.
“Twenty individuals in the tournament were ranked in the top 10 in the nation in their weight class. A tournament with that size and that quality is going to be challenging for everyone.”
The Maroons entered the meet with spots in next week’s NCAA D–III Championship on the line; the top two finishers from each of the 10 weight classes advanced to the tournament. While none of the Chicago wrestlers have qualified for the meet, fourth-year heavyweight Ryan Hatten is the first alternate should any of the qualifiers from the regional drop out.
Fourth-year Chris Oster—with a 9—5 season record—entered the Great Lakes Regional with his final chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
“I knew going in that this was my last shot to make it to the NCAA tournament, so that was a key motivator for me,” Oster said.
“I just wrestled to the best of my ability and did what I could. Early in the day [Kocher] looked at me and said, ‘Let’s place today.’ I just replied ‘yes’ and wrestled my heart out.”
Though he fell short of the podium, Oster, ranked sixth in the 141-pound weight class, placed fourth in his division, upsetting the number four seed on the way.
Oster’s efforts were thwarted twice by Eric Oyster of North Central, the number three seed in his division. He first lost to Oyster in the second round before falling again in the consolation finals.
“[Oyster] is a really tall and lanky guy that’s pretty flexible,” Oster said. “We wrestled fairly evenly in both of the matches, but I just made some mistakes and he was able to capitalize on them. Going into the second match, I tried to be more defensive and wrestle a smarter match.”
Fourth-year heavyweight Ryan Hatten and 133-pound second-year Frankie Acosta also placed fourth in their respective divisions. Hatten, seeded second, won his first two matches before being upset by the number three seed from Concordia-Moorhead. He finished the season with an 18—9 record. Acosta, unranked in the tournament, put in a strong performance Saturday, upsetting the fourth and fifth seeds. First-year Jake Schramm, the number six seed, overcame an injury to place sixth in the 125-pound weight class.
“I was very happy with [their] performances,” Oster said.
“Frankie beat two higher seeds and wrestled an excellent tournament. Jake taking sixth as a first-year was great considering he did it with a broken hand.”
For eight fourth-years on the team, the Great Lakes Regional was the final meet of their wrestling careers. Yet despite the loss of the team’s seniors, strong showings this weekend from younger wrestlers such as Acosta and Schramm bode well for the team’s future.
“We do lose six seniors that were important to our success,” Kocher said.
“But our 10-man lineup at the Regional included three freshmen and five sophomores. We also left some pretty capable people at home who will be back as well.”
Reflecting on the season, Oster said, “I’m proud to have wrestled on this team and feel that it is being left in good hands and that the success we have seen this season will carry on for years to come.”