Chicago (0–4) will compete at the Concordia University Wisconsin Wrestling Open this weekend, a tournament it is viewing, above all, as a learning opportunity.
The South Siders will face dozens of schools at the Open. Last year’s tournament featured 19 Chicago wrestlers in a field of 372, while the upcoming tournament is expected to field over 30 competitors in each weight class. With so many athletes competing, the team is looking forward to providing all members with valuable competition.
“Concordia is always our first big test of the year. The whole team gets to wrestle, and it is a chance for us all to gauge where we are. A lot of teams that we will see all year are there, and the competition is always good,” fourth-year Sam Pennisi said.
Both the athletes and the coach embrace Concordia as a learning experience and place to challenge the team.
“You usually learn more in tournaments—both wrestler and coach—because the wrestlers get more matches. This tournament is probably among the top 10 Division III tournaments in the country,” head coach Leo Kocher (M.B.A. '87) said. “Everyone will be tested at this competition—even the champions. No matter what the outcomes, this kind of competition is important developmentally for the entire squad. Freshmen learn to compete at the collegiate level, and I want our veterans to hit their stride.”
The Maroons hope to repeat their success in last year’s CUW Wrestling Open, where five Chicago wrestlers placed in the top eight of their weight class. Expectations are high for third-year Mario Palmisano, who was seeded seventh going into the tournament and placed in the top five of his weight class last year, as well as Pennisi, who placed sixth in his weight class. First-year Charlie Banaszak is currently ranked in the top 25 and may be seeded in the upcoming tournament.
“I think we will bring talented wrestlers at every weight to this meet, but 30-plus competitors is a lot of competition to wade through, and you have to be on for every match to get to the placing round,” Kocher said. Chicago is coming off a loss to Elmhurst (1–1), which ended the 2012–13 season as the second-place team at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. The tournament kicks off Saturday at Concordia. The Maroons will then train for three weeks before their next five tournaments and matches, which all take place over a span of two weeks. They won’t compete again until December 14, after finals week. “The season is always a long journey, even a grind. But you have to remember that every practice, every week, and every meet is a chance to get better. We’re always trying to make our skills more ingrained, get in better shape, and be mentally tougher,” Pennisi said. The Concordia Open begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday.