Despite the best efforts of a hard-working Maroons wrestling squad, the team ended up second-best to a very talented North Central team. The meeting between UChicago and North Central was billed as a highly contested encounter, with both sides nationally ranked. No. 14 North Central came in as slight favorites, while the Maroons were ranked 23rd. Although the Maroons put up a valiant effort, being able to only win three matchups doomed the Maroons to a 27–12 defeat.
Injuries played a critical role in affecting the performance of the Maroons—both wrestlers in the 125-pound weight class were injured for the Maroons, meaning that North Central began the dual meet with a forfeit victory. After North Central then took a victory by decision in the next weight class, the Maroons quickly found themselves at a deficit, a position that they would be in for the rest of the night.
The first victory for UChicago came when first-year Chaise Hauck managed to scrape by with a victory in a closely contested bout that had to go to overtime in order for a winner to be crowned. Second-year Kahlan Lee-Lermer and third-year Jason Lynch were also able to secure victories for the UChicago side, winning by pin and decision respectively.
Although the Maroons managed to keep many of their matches close, an inability to close out and come out victorious in their individual matchups made it difficult to truly challenge North Central’s lead. The Maroons only lost one matchup by fall, with every other loss coming by decision. The highest margin of victory for North Central was six points, suggesting that the Maroons were fiercely contesting each fight. This could also be seen by the lack of losses by major decision.
The team’s emphasis on youth continued, as head coach Leo Kocher gave a statement to the Athletics Department saying that he was greatly impressed with how his first-years fared in such a difficult matchup. In particular, Kocher noted first-year Gage Bayless’s performance; Bayless fought admirably in one weight class higher up than he was used to, giving his opponent, a two-time NCAA qualifier, a real run for his money. The fighting spirit exhibited by the Maroons, while not necessarily paying off in terms of a victory, suggests that the team will be able to bounce back quickly and use their experience later in the future.
Third-year John Jayne felt that the meet was a lot closer than the score indicated.
“It wasn’t to be. There were a lot of close matches that were lost on small mistakes,” Jayne reflected.
Even in defeat, there was yet some consolation for Jayne as he described his emotions surrounding the match. “I’m still proud of the lads. All of them showed the spirit of the wolf.”
The Maroons look to bounce back from defeat this Friday and Saturday, where they will compete at the Pete Willson-Wheaton Invitational.