On Friday and Saturday at the Pete Willson–Wheaton Invitational, wrestling got a taste of what—hopefully—they’ll be up against at the national level.
Despite injuries that prevented the Maroons from fielding wrestlers in the 157-pound and 165-pound weight classes, things look optimistic: the Maroons placed 18th in a 31-team field that included 10 of the top 30 teams in D-III.
“We could have bumped some of the guys in lower weight classes up,” head coach Leo Kocher said of his team’s injuries, “but in a tournament as tough as Wheaton’s it didn’t make sense to enter undersized competitors.”
First-year Willie Long in the 133-pound weight class secured Chicago’s top performance in the tournament; he won five matches on his way to a fifth-place finish. Five of the Maroons' eight wrestlers finished one victory away from reaching the top eight in their weight class—although of the five, only Long managed to earn a podium spot.
“We had some disappointing losses against some good wrestlers in the placing round,” Kocher said. “Even though no Chicago wrestler was seeded, I thought we were good enough to surprise some people and knock off some seeds.”
This season’s finish was a notable improvement from last year’s, when the Maroons placed 25th.
“The wrestlers we brought were pretty competitive,” Kocher said. “We picked up a lot of points in the early rounds with pins and major decisions.”
The strength of the team’s performance is promising; over 30 wrestlers at the Wheaton Invitational are ranked in the top 10 nationally in their weight class.
“Many of our wrestlers have the talent to beat nationally competitive wrestlers if they stay disciplined and wrestle their best,” Kocher said.
The Maroons are back in action again Friday against North Central, who placed seventh at the Wheaton Invitational.