Coming off a series of notable performances at the Pete Willson Invitational, Chicago (3–8) faces two tough opponents this weekend, traveling to Augustana Friday and returning home Saturday to take on Wheaton.
This past weekend, the Maroons made a statement for their rising program, placing 11 out of 32 teams in the Pete Willson Invitational at Wheaton, which is a 10-place jump from last year’s finish (21) and their best placing in the biggest small college tournament in seven years.
The squad was led by second-year Devan Richter who came in second in the 125-pound weight class after defeating the No. 1 seed in the semifinals, but he ultimately succumbed to the No. 3 seed. His performance was able to garner him his second consecutive UAA Athlete of the Week award. The South Siders were also led by third-year Paul Papoutsis who placed eighth in the 174-pound class.
Coming into their meeting with Chicago, the Augustana Vikings (6–6) look to reverse their mediocre performance last weekend, placing 19 at the Pete Willson Invitational. In their previous meet with the Maroons in 2015, the Vikings took an early 15–0 lead, but the South Siders came storming back, winning six of the last seven matches and snatching a 21–18 victory in a meet of two halves. This Friday, Augustana will be led by fourth-year captain Jimmy Panozzo who received the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Wrestler of the Week award and currently stands with a team best 21–4 record.
Against Wheaton, the Maroon men seek revenge for the 30–13 loss handed to them in the 2014 season. Hosts of the Pete Willson Invitational, the Thunders placed one spot ahead of the Maroons at No. 10. Fourth-year Michael Swider and third-years Jared Fekete and Stephen Aiello all placed within the top eight in their weight classes: 197-pound, 157-pound, and 174-pound, respectively.
Chicago will certainly have their hands full this weekend against a pair of talented opponents. However, after a strong weekend, they will be looking to ride their momentum. Asked what the team would take from the invitational into this weekend, first-year Luke Lida responded, “Watching teammates such as Devan Richter pinning the No. 1 ranked 125-pound in the nation and Paul Papoutsis placing in a tough bracket definitely creates a good outlook for these coming meets. Even with a freshman-dominated lineup, I think we can perform well against these two tough competitors.”
Even with an extremely talented but young roster, the Maroons have looked up to upperclassmen for leadership and mentorship. Lida continued, “The upperclassmen, especially the captains, have been a big help in terms of motivation and leadership. They set a great example in the wrestling room by always working hard and doing extra conditioning/wrestling after practice. Their optimistic work ethic sets a great tone for me and the other freshmen.”
Chicago will take on Augustana this Friday, February 5 at 7 p.m. in Rock Island, IL. They will then travel home and face Wheaton on Saturday, February 6 at 1 p.m.