This weekend, the Maroon wrestling team heads to Elmhurst College for the Al Hanke Invitational. The squad will face off against Elmhurst, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, North Central College, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), Lincoln College, Harper College, Triton College, and Henry Ford College.
The team is looking to build on recent squad and individual success. Last Saturday, the team, hosting the Chicago Duals, went undefeated, beating Trine, Dubuque, and Manchester, despite losing four of 10 starters to injury. In their final two match-ups, the Maroons came from behind to win, solidifying their mental strength to complement their physical strength. Reflecting on the team’s experience at the Chicago Duals, third-year Nick Ferraro credited the team’s “next man up mentality” with allowing it to overcome obstacles. “The team really came together last weekend at the Chicago Duals where several wrestlers stepped up and delivered. We had four starters out with injuries, and with the next man up mentality we didn't let that stop us en route to a 3–0 day.” The team also has enjoyed high finishes at recent invitationals. In December, the Maroons placed 16th out of 43 teams at the Wilkes Open and placed fourth at the Milwaukee School of Engineering Invitational.
Individually, wrestlers across all years have enjoyed many victories as well. Six members of the team have already reached double digits in victories. The nine-person first-year class has proved its worth and depth, with several wrestlers consistently winning. First-years Kahlan Lee-Kermer and Steve Bonsall each post frequent individual victories, with Lee-Kermer finishing sixth at the MSOE Invite, going 2–2 at Wilkes, and winning his three matches in the Duals. Bonsall went 2–0 at the Duals and won the 157-pound title at the MSOE Invite. Additionally, first-year Kyle Peisker won the Trine University Invite at 157 pounds and was named UAA Athlete of the Week in wrestling. Bonsall believes that “grit and refined technique from their coaches” have played major roles in easing the transition to college wrestling for the first-years and allowing them to succeed.
Upperclassmen have also been competing ferociously. Third-year Nick Ferraro reached the consolation semifinals of Wilkes, also won the MSOE Invite at 174 pounds, and beat second-year teammate Jason Lynch in the finals to win the Concordia University Wisconsin Open. He, too, was named UAA Wrestling Athlete of the Week. Fourth-year Michael Sepke has also enjoyed success at 165 pounds this season, defeating a Division I opponent at the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships and going 2–2 at the Wilkes Open.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Ferraro expects “some strong competition and look[s] forward to seeing how we perform after last week’s excellent start to the new year.” According to Bonsall, “If the team outworks and wears down each of our opponents like we've been conditioned to do, I'm sure we'll see success across the board.” The Maroons will begin competing at 9 a.m. on Saturday.