Chicago has charged out of the gates after winter break, going 3–0 at the Chicago Duals and garnering first place out of five teams at the Elmhurst Tournament.
That momentum will be tested this coming weekend, as the Maroons travel to Wheaton College to participate in the Wheaton Invitational today and Saturday.
“We are coming off some pretty nice wins, so that definitely helps morale. Hopefully we can keep that streak alive this weekend. It is probably the toughest tournament we have all year until regionals, so we will definitely need to step it up. But I am feeling good about where we are, and I believe the other guys are as well,” third-year Mario Palmisano said.
Palmisano was one of Chicago’s top competitors at the tournament last year, placing sixth in his weight class and contributing to the 45.5 points which ultimately placed the Maroons 15th out of 29 teams.
Traditionally, the Wheaton tournament has hosted numerous competitive teams, many of which were capable of taking the championship.
“The Wheaton tournament has pretty clearly been the toughest DIII tournament in the nation. There will be DII scholarshipped team[s] in the field as well. We expect a total of 31 teams, with many of them being nationally ranked,” head coach Leo Kocher (M.B.A. '87) said.
As a two-day tournament, the Maroons will need to head into the competition prepared for multiple matches.
“The challenge for all tournaments is the fact that there are a lot of matches packed into the two days, so not only physical but mental endurance is crucial to wrestling well,” first-year Paul Papoutsis said. “We have some tough competition at the tournament, so it will be great experience for us before Case and NYU.”
With each weight class averaging well over 25 wrestlers, many of whom are nationally ranked, including 10th-ranked first-year Chicago wrestler Charlie Banaszak, Chicago will have to work hard throughout the tournament.
“With the quantity and quality of this tournament you have to be ready every match—knocking off a ranked wrestler early does not get you to the awards podium because it is likely there will be other tough wrestlers you will have to get past. You can have some great wins in this thing and still not place,” Kocher said.
After the Wheaton College Invitational, the South Siders will have two more meets at Augustana and Case Western before the UAA Championships, held two weeks from now on February 15 in New York.
“Every competition builds on the ones before it. We try to get better every week and correct our mistakes as we get further into the season. UAAs is always a big one and hopefully we get better this week and next in preparation for that and regionals,” Palmisano said.