First-year and UAA Rookie of the Year Devan Ritcher qualified for nationals this past weekend as the Maroons took eighth out of 12 teams at the 2015 NCAA DIII Midwest Regional on Saturday at Wabash College.
The UW–Whitewater squad took first with 133.5 points, while Chicago finished eighth with 48 points. It should be noted that the top three individual wrestlers in each of the 10 weight classes qualified to advance to nationals.
Ritcher, who came into the regional meet seeded fifth at 125 pounds, upset his opponents by taking first in his weight class. He had a pair of pins in the quarterfinals and semifinals to take him to the final round, where he dominated 17–4.
“It felt great taking first in our region and qualifying for nationals despite being seeded fifth at 125,” Ritcher said. “It just goes to show that anything can happen on competition day and while seeding a bracket may give a general idea of how good people are, in no way does it tell you who is going to come out on top. Anyone can win, so you have to take tournaments one match at a time and not overlook anybody. I think my competition may have underestimated my ability, which worked to my advantage.”
Despite major success this weekend, Ritcher also acknowledged that he has room to improve during the two weeks before nationals.
“My coaches and I mainly want to focus on just refining the tools I already have,” he said. “I am a fairly solid wrestler, but working on my technique with my coaches during the next two weeks will give me an edge at nationals.”
Although Ritcher was the only South Sider to qualify for nationals, many of his teammates also had standout performances. Almost every Maroon wrestler either achieved or exceeded his initial seed in the regional meet.
Fourth-year Mario Palmisano went 2–2 on the day, advancing as far as the semi-finals, where an injury to his knee prevented him from advancing to the final match. He went on to lose in the consolation match 8–6 to take fourth at heavyweight.
Second-year Paul Papoutsis also went 2–2 at 165 pounds, and won in the fifth place match by virtue of a 10–6 decision. First-year 141-pounder Elliot Henderson collected a 2–3 record to place sixth.
“Overall, I would say the team was pleased with its performance at regionals, although there were some guys on the team who were disappointed,” Ritcher said. “That being said, everyone showed up to wrestle their best which is all you can hope for during the regional qualifying event. We had a lot of teammates who were close to going, which I’m sure will motivate hard work, so that more of the team can qualify for nationals next year.”
The NCAA DIII National Championships will take place March 13–14 in Hershey, PA.