In what is arguably the most competitive tournament in the Midwest, Chicago placed 19th of 32 teams.
Chicago sent 10 wrestlers to the Pete Willson Invitational, where after the first day, first-year Charlie Banaszak managed to stay in the double-elimination tournament and ended the weekend placing sixth, matching his seed coming into the tournament.
“Banaszak wrestled some very strong matches—his sixth place finish was in a very competitive weight class that featured three, maybe four, top 10 in the nation wrestlers,” head coach Leo Kocher (M.B.A. '87) said.
Fourth-year Jacob Smith lost his opening match, only to come back and win his next three consecutive matches before being eliminated, ending the day on a 3–2 record.
“This tournament was a fantastic opportunity to get some good exposure to wrestling high-level competition, which is paramount so that we're ready for the [upcoming] part of our season. Really the fact that there were few, if any, “easy” matches for people is great mental practice for wrestling at a high level every single match,” Smith said. “[Pete [Willson] was a great experience to really find and pinpoint a mental zone that allowed you to compete at your best for tough matches. For me personally it also was a good way to pinpoint areas in my wrestling technique that I have to improve on to be effective against high level competition.”
Fourth-year Sam Pennisi experienced the same sequence of results, ending the day with a similar record, while third-year Mario Palmisano finished the day on a 2–2 record.
“This meet is always a tough one. It is a really good check before we start the last leg of the season, and I think we saw a lot of good things out of our wrestlers,” Pennisi said. “There is always more to work on, though, and we're just trying to do the most we can in the next four weeks before the regional.”
Chicago now has one more meet before the UAA Championships, to be held in New York on Feb 15. Prior to facing NYU and Case, the Maroons will be traveling to Rock Island to face the Vikings at Augustana College.
“Augustana has a strong team—they finished seventh at this tournament with three placers,” Kocher said. “Regardless of the outcome of our dual, it will present an opportunity for our team to deliver the hard-nosed performances we are going to need in New York.”
The team as a whole is training hard preparing for the conference championships, which the South Siders finished second in last year.
“We always get a little more fired up for those duels, and the last time we won them was in New York, so hopefully we'll repeat that performance,” Pennisi said.