The Chicago team opened its season in dramatic fashion on Friday by losing to North Central in a tiebreaker. The Maroons were led by a youthful infusion of talent, as seven of the nine starters in the match were underclassmen.
The squad got off to a slow start against the Cardinals before storming back to tie the match. Unfortunately, the Maroons fell in the subsequent tiebreaker. The Cardinals jumped out quickly by taking the first three matches to take the lead at 13–0. The South Siders got back on the winning side of things when first-years Mason Williams and Luke Iida notched their first wins back-to-back at 149 and 157 lbs., respectively. Going into the 174 lb. weight class, UChicago was down 16–6. Third-year veteran Paul Papoutsis righted the ship by dominating his opponent and winning 8–3.
Papoutsis was satisfied with his dominant performance, but as a veteran of the Maroon wrestling team, he was especially optimistic about the performance of the first-years and underclassmen on the team. “Our freshmen starters performed really well. Luke Iida, Mason Williams, and John Jayne all had great matches,” he said. “Even Louis DeMarco, who lost, wrestled tough. He worked hard not to get majored which kept the duel close.”
One of the first-years who notched his first career win was Iida, who was excited to get his first shot at collegiate wrestling and take home the victory. “Individually, I am really happy with how my first match went. Being my first official collegiate match, I was a little nervous stepping onto the mat, but I’m happy that I was able to successfully implement some of the techniques that coach Kocher has showed us over this past month.”
The high point of the day came from second-year heavyweight Graham Grant, who dominated in his match 10–2 to tie up the team score between the Maroons and the Cardinals at 19–19. Unfortunately for the Maroons, North Central held the tiebreaker between the two schools and was handed the victory.
While Papoutsis was disappointed with the finish, he was satisfied with how the Maroons came out and competed. He is optimistic about the rest of the season for the Maroons. “I think we’re going to have a great season, I’m excited to see the freshmen continue to improve and wrestle more great matches throughout the season.”
Iida echoed Papoutsis’s sentiments about the rest of the season and believes that the ceiling for this season is very high. “I am really excited about how the season will play out, and am setting my individual goals as high as possible. Even though we have a lot of freshmen in the starting lineup, I think that the way we push ourselves in the wrestling room combined with the guidance of the upperclassmen will allow us to succeed both individually and as a team.”
The squad will look to build on the positive momentum in its match against North Central this weekend in Angola, IN, in the Trine Invitational.