Fully healthy or not, the Maroons still wrestled with grit and toughness at the Wheaton College Pete Wilson Invitational over the weekend.
In addition to placing two wrestlers in the top eight in their weight class, Chicago (4–3) finished 15th out of 29 teams at Wheaton, “the toughest Division III tournament in the nation,” according to head coach Leo Kocher.
UW–Parkside destroyed the competition with 151.5 points, followed by second-place Messiah College (101 points) and third-place UW–La Crosse (87 points). Nine nationally-ranked teams wrestled at Wheaton.
The South Siders competed with a few wrestlers absent from their lineup, such as second-year Willie Long (133 pounds—out with the flu), who placed fifth at Wheaton last year.
Even though the Maroons finished in the middle of the pack, Kocher was still pleased with the team’s performance.
“The eight [wrestlers] we did send were able to score 45.5 points, which is not bad at that caliber of tournament,” Kocher said.
The two Maroons who placed in their classes were fourth-year James Layton (157 pounds) and second-year Mario Palmisano (197).
Layton came in unseeded and finished in fourth place with a 5–2 record over the course of the two-day meet. Kocher was very impressed with his veteran’s performance.
“As an unseeded wrestler, [James] was pretty outstanding, with one of his wins being a pin over a wrestler, John Carroll’s Terner Gott, who is currently ranked fourth in Division III,” Kocher said.
Palmisano, who entered the tournament seeded sixth and finished sixth, has been tearing up the mats this year for Chicago. He finished the day with a 4–3 record.
Kocher also touted Palmisano’s showing at Wheaton and believes the second-year is a rising star.
“His losses against national caliber opponents were very close,” Kocher said. “He showed [he] is a threat to beat anyone in the nation.”
Other Maroons also contributed to the team’s point total. Fourth-year Joeie Ruettiger (141) came in seeded sixth but was knocked out by the fourth-seeded wrestler. Ruettiger finished with a 2–2 record.
First-years Sam Hopkins (165) and Steve Franke (174) wrestled well.
“Our freshmen in the tournament, Hopkins and Franke, both collected a couple wins, including one fall each, scoring important team points in the process,” Kocher said.
The Maroons hope to be healthier for their final regular season match against Augustana, which they will host this Friday at 7 p.m. The match will be their final tune-up before UAAs.