Early this Saturday morning, a gang of 25 muscled Maroons will pile into a bus bound for Galesburg, Illinois. There, at the Knox Duals tournament, they will attempt to wrestle a win out of the hands of four opponents: Knox, Wabash, Central College (IA), and Loras College (IA).
“I believe we should be competitive with pretty much any team we face going forward,” Head Coach Leo Kocher said.
The team has been focusing on honing its fundamentals. “[We’ve been working on] conditioning, technique improvement, broadening their attacks, and raising their intensity,” said Kocher, who attributed much of the team’s recent improvement to a training trip at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during the first week of break. Second-year Matt Klein called the experience “incredible.”
“We were in the same room with famous coaches, past Olympic gold medalists, and NCAA DI qualifiers training for the Olympics,” Klein said.
Klein’s teammate and fellow second-year, Ryan Hoyt, agreed that the trip to Colorado Springs made all the difference.
“We wrestled twice a day, every day, and on Saturday we wrestled the Air Force Academy. They’re a DI team, but even so, we did extremely well against them,” Hoyt said. “By now, I don’t think anyone can be in better shape than we are.”
The trip not only afforded the team invaluable training but also brought the squad of South Siders closer than ever.
“You sleep in hotel rooms with the guys, you eat together. You really get to know your teammates without all the schoolwork and other concerns of the University,” Hoyt said.
Kocher recalled that one of his fondest memories of the season was turning his wrestlers loose on the meal services of the Olympic Training Center. “[There was] amazing quantity, variety, and quality of food,” Kocher said. The team had no weigh-in to go through, which allowed everyone to eat to his heart’s content. “I think the guys ate every meal like it was the last one they were ever going to have,” Kocher said.
The team left Colorado full of food and optimism. “The intensive training session…should put us in a good position for this weekend. I would say that the team is poised to do well,” Ryan Klein, Matt’s twin, who is also on the team, said.
“After Saturday, everything is aiming toward our national qualifiers,” Hoyt said. The national qualifying meets will take place during the sixth week of the quarter.
Kocher feels confident that his boys will leave it all on the mat at the upcoming tournament and for the rest of the season.
“Like all Chicago students, these guys are used to achieving and they are relying on each other to push themselves in preparing to meet the very strong challenges our schedule provides,” Kocher said.
The first dual meet will take place at 9 a.m., with Chicago taking on Loras.