CHICAGO – The consistent buildup and development of talent paid dividends last February for the University of Chicago wrestling team. The Maroons broke through against conference rivals New York University, utilizing clutch pins to knock off the Violets 21-19 and win the University Athletic Association team title.
UChicago brings back the vast majority of last year's contributors, and with another quality incoming class in tow, the squad is preparing to take the next big step to compete on the national stage in 2018-19.
Head Coach Leo Kocher enters his 40th season at the helm of the Maroons. His 29-man squad includes seven seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores and eight first-years. Last year's group featured a large contingent of rookies and sophomores who made an impact on the starting lineup. With another year of seasoning and a veteran senior class, Kocher feels confident in his group's abilities.
"We have a group that is convinced we can be among the best in Division III and is determined to do so," Kocher said. "As coaches, we are excited to see the team members doing the leading when it comes to setting and enforcing training standards. Our coaching staff will be supplying the challenges and guidance to get us to where the team aspires to be."
UChicago's seniors have seen plenty of action entering their fourth year. Nick Ferraro (174 pounds) posted a 17-9 record last year and picked up a pair of pins at UAAs. Ferraro owns a career record of 80-40. Louis DeMarco (12-11 record) has been a lineup regular at 133 pounds, while Jason Lynch (184 pounds) and Patrick Mulkerin (285 pounds) have been mainstays at the higher weights. Lynch has tallied 17 technical falls over the past three seasons.
Steve Bonsall and Kahlan Lee-Lermer lead the junior class as multi-year starters. Bonsall earned All-American status in his rookie campaign and followed up by going 17-3 last year at 157 pounds. Lee-Lermer was the UAA champion at 165 pounds and tied for the team lead in wins at 22-10. He also pinned nine opponents. Kyle Peisker put up an 11-2 mark at 174 pounds, rolling up five technical falls along the way.
The sophomores include Jason Crary, who went 22-9 at 157 pounds last year and was named the UAA Rookie of the Year. He also won the Elmhurst College Invite and Harper College Open. Chaise Hauck bounced between 141 and 149 pounds, submitting a 17-12 record. Will Hare added 16 wins of his own at heavyweight.
UChicago was particularly effective in dual match settings. The Maroons utilized a deep starting lineup to post a 10-3 record, which featured three wins against College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) schools. The squad also went 3-0 as hosts of the Chicago Duals and 2-2 at the National Duals in back-to-back weeks. Kocher pointed out that the biggest differences between dual match and tournament settings are exertion and mindset.
"The challenge in duals is to have a healthy, competitive wrestler in every weight class," Kocher said. "I think this group has the talent at every weight class – maintaining health is a week-to-week proposition. Success in tournaments is more of a question of having high placers where there are typically 10, 20 or more in each weight class. A dual meet is one and done. A tournament is a grind where you have to get up for the next opponent again, and again, and again."
The incoming class of first-years bring plenty of credentials with them. The adjustment from high school to college competition will be a hurdle for them to overcome. However, the veteran head coach is optimistic about their potential growth.
"It is always a challenge for freshmen to make the adjustment to the increased speed, strength, intensity and talent of collegiate wrestling," said Kocher. "Our freshmen are fortunate to get an excellent and early exposure to that heightened level from our seasoned veterans in the room. The freshmen are tough, learning fast, and will be seeing a lot of action – as will the entire team."