After a rocky first two months of their season, the Maroons appear to have gained some momentum, winning all three of their matches in the six-team Chicago Duals.
Chicago (3–8) hosted the meet, facing Trine, McDaniel, and Manchester. The Maroons triumphed with scores of 40–6, 29–21, and 36–12, respectively.
Against Trine, eight of the 10 wrestlers representing Chicago won their match-ups. Fourth-year Sam Pennisi and third-year Mario Palmisano secured their wins by pinning their opponents, while first-years Charlie Banaszak and Paul Papoutsis and fourth-year Jacob Smith won by technical falls.
Facing McDaniel College, Chicago found more of a challenge, edging the Green Terror by winning six of their 10 matches. Two forfeits at the top of the lineup and four outright wins, including a pin by second-year Steven Franke, gave the Maroons their six victories. McDaniel wrestlers followed with three pins in the three highest weight classes to garner some points against the South Siders.
Against Manchester, Chicago pinned five of their opponents en route to a seven-victory win. Banaszak, Franke, and first-year Mike McNulty all went undefeated, contributing heavily to a major success for the team this year.
“It definitely feels good. I’ve had some ups and downs so far this season, and it was really rewarding to have such a successful day,” McNulty said. “We were able to see some good competition and get some matches, as well as boost team morale. We’ve had a bit of a rocky start, and it was great going 3–0.”
Complementing Chicago’s success was Banaszak’s second UAA Athlete of the Week award this year. He earned his first honor on November 25, and has had consistent success throughout the season, garnering a 15–4 record.
“It has been really nice to have personal success this season, but having a successful team is much more gratifying as an athlete,” Banaszak said.
With the new year beginning, the team has been putting in tremendous amounts of work, hoping to turn their season around.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress as a team,” Pennisi said. “At the beginning and end of break, we stayed on campus and had practice with no other distractions. Being able to focus exclusively on wrestling really sharpened us up, and it showed last Saturday. We don’t have any more duals for a while, but we’re looking to continue this growth through the next couple of tournaments.”
Continuing to progress will be a key focus for the Maroons as they move forward.
“I have not been unhappy with how our guys have competed this year, but I think we needed these Ws,” head coach Leo Kocher (M.B.A. '87) said. “It is part of the process of developing a belief in ourselves and each other. I am looking for this team to be consistent, healthy, and pull together as a unit.”
The Maroons have five meets remaining in the season, culminating in the UAA Championship. Chicago came in second last year to the defending champs, NYU.
“If we can build on this success and keep working, we’ll have a strong dual team that has the ability to knock off all of these teams come competition day,” Smith said.