Like many of the other winter sports, Chicago is looking forward to a strong 2016 after a productive winter break. While most of the student body got the chance to return home and travel from Hyde Park during winter break, the squad instead spent their time practicing in anticipation of the second half of the season.
Second-year Cristen Bublitz praised the work the Maroons put in during break. “It was very productive. Coach Kocher has set up a very efficient system to get us ready for the rest of the season. Plus it was a great time to grow together not only as wrestlers, but as a team. Over break we had two practices a day. The morning practices were designed to be a lot faster-paced while the afternoon practice was mostly technique.”
The wrestlers got closer as a team over break as they spent more time than normal together. Since the dorms were closed, the students who lived on campus stayed in the houses and apartments of their teammates who lived off-campus.
“Staying here over the break for practices was not the most ideal break, but everyone maintained positive and made the most out of it,” said first-year Tae Ahn.
As the end of break neared, most students looked forward to their classes while the wrestlers looked towards the Chicago Duels where the South Siders would post a 1–2 record. They beat Harper College but fell to the undefeated Ohio Northern and the No. 9-ranked team in the country, Wabash College.
After holding a 15–9 lead over Ohio Northern, the Maroons would eventually falter to lose 22–15. Second-year Devan Richter says the team is still positive despite the end result, citing how close the matches were, “Our team is still feeling pretty good after the Chicago duels despite going 1–2 overall. We had some matches that were close in the two duels we lost that could have made the difference, especially against Ohio Northern.”
Before beating Harper by a score of 31–22, the Maroons first took on Wabash College Little Giants, losing 32–9. “Wabash is by far the best team we have faced this year,” Richter said. “Wrestling against them is a true test to gauge how we are doing overall as a team. Things didn't go quite the way we would have liked, but that just gives us motivation to keep getting better.”
Richter had quite the day, with two pins against Wabash and Harper College, and he has won four of his last five matches. The second-year wrestler cites his teammates and coaches for the hot streak, “first-year Louis DeMarco is an awesome wrestling partner for me. The two of us definitely help one another. On top of that, having two coaches that work primarily with the lighter weight wrestlers helps immensely. They take a large interest in you, and help you with technique that is specific to us smaller wrestlers.”
Ahn echoed the same sentiment. “I feel that we are working hard as a team and are pushing each other to make adjustments and improve every day.”
As the season in 2016 picks up, the Maroons will travel to the Lakeland Duels this weekend where they will face Lakeland College, Milwaukee School of Engineering, and St. John’s University. This presents a great opportunity for the team as they swept the Lakeland Duels last year. The host school, however, participated in the Chicago Duels and recorded the same record as the Maroons, so Chicago can’t necessarily assume a win.
The team’s enthusiasm and morale is high for this weekend though as reflected by first-year Louis DeMarco. “I'd say the team's feeling ready for this weekend. We had a great couple weeks of practice over break and faced some tough competition last weekend. We're a pretty young team but if everyone wrestles to their ability, we can beat most teams we face.”
The Maroons are ready to take on 2016 after a very difficult winter break with an overwhelmingly positive attitude, which is important in a sport as mentally and physically taxing as wrestling.
“We have eight more weeks remaining and everyone is motivated to make the best out of it. Such attitude will pay off,” Ahn said. The Lakeland Duels begin at 12 p.m. on Saturday, January 9 as Chicago takes on Lakeland and will finish at 3 p.m. when the Maroons tackle St. John’s.