The nation’s most difficult regional qualifier closed the door on the Maroons’ NCAA hopes on Saturday, as Chicago finished its season with an 11th-place performance at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Second-year Adam Wyeth had the Maroons’ standout performance with a fourth-place finish at 133 pounds. Behind him, fourth-year Joeie Ruettiger and second-year Mario Palmisano lived up to their seeds with fifth- and sixth-place performances, respectively, at 149 pounds and 197 pounds. The top three finishers in each of the 10 weight classes qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“For the team as a whole, it’s never fun to go to a tournament like this and not qualify anyone for Nationals,” Wyeth said, “but most of us that wrestled are young and can take it as a learning experience for next season.”
The odds are strongly against Chicago seeing another deck as stacked as Saturday’s. Twenty-seven nationally ranked wrestlers competed at the Midwest Regional, with seven of them missing out on qualifying. Second-year Joe Ellis and fourth-year Jim Layton each shared brackets with four wrestlers in the national top-10s at 141 pounds and 157 pounds, respectively.
The teams that placed first through fifth were each ranked in the top 12 in February’s coaches’ poll, with fourth-ranked UW–Whitewater (121 points) beating out second-ranked Elmhurst (108 points) behind four first-place finishes.
Wyeth came in unseeded, spotting injured second-year Willie Long. After losing his first match to Elmhurst’s Dalton Bullard, a reigning All-American and the eventual second-place finisher, Wyeth won a 4–1 decision over the sixth seed and a 13–9 decision over the fifth seed before losing to UW–Whitewater’s Grant Sutter, another All-American.
“I came into the tournament after a pretty rough season without a lot of concrete successes, but knew that I had been improving throughout the year and was close to taking my wrestling to the next level as long as I stayed confident,” Wyeth said. “My successes were a result of mentally preparing myself to wrestle hard for all seven minutes while letting my technical instincts take over.”
In his last college tournament, Ruettiger finished with a 3–2 record. He lost his opening match to the eventual champion before bouncing back with a first-period pin and an 8–4 decision. Second-seeded Jake Strausbaugh from Wabash sent Ruettiger into the fifth-place match, which was won via forfeit.
In a weight class that featured three nationally ranked wrestlers, Palmisano faced six matches and came away with a 3–3 mark to finish sixth, earning his three victories by decision (9–3, 9–5, 7–5). The second-year gave the eventual champion his closest contest of the day, eventually losing a 14–12 decision.
“I think for the most part, the team brought their A-game,” head coach Leo Kocher said. “We played the hand we were dealt. All of the returners and coaches are determined to close what is not that big of a gap between us and the best of Division III next season.”