*During the current hiatus of collegiate sport action, UChicago Athletics is running a story series throughout the spring and summer called "Maroon Moments", which will highlight some of the top performances and most pivotal contests from the last two years across all Maroon athletic teams.
CHICAGO – When the University of Chicago wrestling team arrived in Cleveland, Ohio for the 2019 University Athletic Association Championship, the Maroons were looking to repeat as titlists. Since the inaugural UAA Championship in 1988, UChicago has won more than half of the team trophies. However, New York University had the upper hand in recent years, rattling off six-consecutive team crowns from 2012-17. The Violets had plenty of talent returning as well and were eager to reclaim the top spot.
However, the Maroons countered with one their most dominating efforts ever in league competition. UChicago ultimately won 17 of 20 matches on the day, defeating NYU 36-3 and Case Western Reserve University 34-6.
The Maroons entered 2019 as the defending champs after a dramatic finish to the 2018 conference meet. NYU won six of the 10 weight class bouts with UChicago, but only one produced bonus points for the Violets. On the other side, UChicago picked up a forfeit at 141 pounds and two pins at 165 and 174 pounds to claim a narrow 21-19 team victory.
For Head Coach Leo Kocher and the Maroons, the UAAs are the most important dual meet competitions of the year. By the time wrestling teams reach the scheduled conference matches in mid-February, roster health looms large. Four months into a grueling season can take its toll on wrestlers who have competed in 30 or more matches by that point.
"In preparing for this event, the coaches and trainers tried to manage the team to be as ready and healthy as possible," Kocher said. "We had two particular problems in the health area. Junior Steve Bonsall and senior Louis Demarco had both been held out due to significant injuries. Bonsall was cleared after sitting out for weeks. Because we did not have much in the way of a backup in his weight class, Demarco decided that even if he was not 100 percent physically, he was our best chance at keeping his matches close and not giving up bonus points in a loss.
"We had one current and two future NCAA All-Americans, and junior Kahlan Lee-Lermer was going for his second 165-pound UAA title," he continued. "That was a pretty good start. I felt we still had to find a couple more individual match wins. As a team, Case Western Reserve was improving but NYU was the favorite. NYU was ranked 17th and UChicago was ranked 24th in the Division III coaches poll."
Right out of the gate, the Maroons were sure to be tested as NYU was the first scheduled opponent of the day. Kocher felt his big guys were wrestling well heading into the weekend. First-year Ben Sarasin (174 pounds) and junior Kyle Peisker (184 pounds) were both forces to be reckoned with on the national stage. Junior Nick Carola (197 pounds) had been practicing for eight weeks and looked to be in good shape, while senior heavyweight Pat Mulkerin was putting together a career-best year. Kocher was hoping for at least one or two wins against NYU in the first five weight classes, then rely on the team's strongest weight classes in the last half of the lineup to clinch.
What UChicago did not anticipate was that half of NYU's starting lineup was out of commission due to injury or unavailability. The teams ended up drawing for starting weight class and opened with 174 pounds. Right away, the Violets had to contend with Sarasin and Peisker – both UChicgo grapplers would earn All-American status at the NCAA Championships a month later.
Sarasin started strong with a 14-6 major decision, with the Violets subsequently forfeiting their 184-pound match. Peisker's presumed opponent was bumped up to 197 pounds instead, where Carola secured a second-period pin. With momentum all on their side, the Maroons rolled from there. UChicago claimed nine out of 10 matches en route to a 36-3 triumph.
The job was not done yet, however. Host school Case Western Reserve would need to be beaten as well, and Kocher did not want his team to overlook the Spartans.
"It was a never-relax kind of day," said the veteran coach. "After we beat NYU, Case Western Reserve defeated NYU as well for the first time in years. I thought our match with Case would likely have some close ones. Case won two bouts, but we won four close ones. Case was competitive in all of those matches."
Once again, the heavier weights led the charge for the Maroons. Sarasin, Peisker, Carola and Mulkerin produced two pins, one technical fall and one decision to stake the squad to a 20-0 lead. Six of the matches versus the Spartans were decided by an average of 2.3 points. UChicago ultimately came away as victors by a 34-6 final score.
UChicago's biggest emotional boost of the day was provided by DeMarco. Despite his initial modest expectations of keeping his matches close, the senior instead delivered a pair of gutty victories. The Ohio native defeated his NYU foe 13-4 and then clinched his first Individual UAA weight class title in front of family and friends in a down-to-the-wire 7-5 win over CWRU.
With their 17th UAA team title in hand, the Maroons had seven wrestlers named to the All-UAA team for their performances – DeMarco, Bonsall, Lee-Lermer, Sarasin, Peisker, Carola and Mulkerin.
UChicago 36, NYU 3
174 pounds – Ben Sarasin (UC) def. Izaake Zuckerman (NYU), 14-6 major decision
184 pounds – Kyle Peisker (UC) wins by forfeit
197 pounds – Nick Carola (UC) def. Luke Ratchford (NYU), Fall (4:30)
285 pounds – Patrick Mulkerin (UC) def. Will Ortman (NYU), 5-0 decision
125 pounds – David Traub (UC) def. Jonathan Keltz (NYU), 11-10 decision
133 pounds – Louis Demarco (UC) def. Zach Alexander (NYU), 13-4 major decision
141 pounds – Evan Drill (NYU) def. Chaise Hauck (UC), 10-3 decision
149 pounds – Alec Gleason (UC) def. Seth Schulman (NYU), 9-3 decision
157 pounds – Steve Bonsall (UC) def. Dylan Dwyer (NYU), 5-3 decision
165 pounds – Kahlan Lee-Lermer (UC) def. Kade Steck-Loughney (NYU), 16-7 major decision
UChicago 34, CWRU 6
174 pounds – Ben Sarasin (UC) def. Aidan McCooey (CWRU), 16-0 technical fall
184 pounds – Kyle Peisker (UC) def. Brian Kent (CWRU), Fall (1:56)
197 pounds – Nick Carola (UC) def. Gavin Dersh-Fisher (CWRU), Fall (5:33)
285 pounds – Patrick Mulkerin (UC) def. Brian McNamara (CWRU), 5-2 decision
125 pounds – Adam Kates (CWRU) def. David Traub (UC), 6-5 decision
133 pounds – Louis Demarco (UC) def. Jacob Frisch (CWRU), 7-5 decision
141 pounds – Chaise Hauck (UC) def. Alec Hoover (CWRU), 8-6 decision
149 pounds – Andrew Hoover (CWRU) def. Alec Gleason (UC), 4-1 decision
157 pounds – Jason Crary (UC) def. Jack Chipps (CWRU), 16-0 technical fall
165 pounds – Kahlan Lee-Lermer (UC) def. Isaac Collier (CWRU), 4-1 decision