The Case Western Reserve University wrestling squad, which has been consistently improving, sputtered at the John Summa Tournament. Last season the team finished fifth with 91.5 points. This year, they dropped four places to ninth (out of 15 teams) and scored 48.5 points.
“I feel like we’ve made progress every time out, and this was the first time I felt that it wasn’t that big of a jump,” said Head Coach Danny Song. “We didn’t jump a level.”
The tournament format is such that if a wrestler does not win their first match, the best they could finish is fifth. That scenario occurred for most of the team. Third-year wrestler Gavin Dersh-Fisher (197 lbs.) and second-year wrestler Andrew Munn (157 lbs.) both achieved fifth place finishes; both won every match after losing their first.
Second-year grappler Andrew Hoover (141 lbs.) won his first match, but lost in the quarterfinals as well as in his fifth place match to earn a sixth place finish. His brother, second-year Alec Hoover (133 lbs.), finished in seventh.
So, in the words of Bill Belichick, the great New England Patriots coach, “On to Chicago.”
The University Athletic Association (UAA) tournament is held at the University of Chicago. The conference only has three wrestling schools: CWRU, Chicago and New York University (NYU). The three-team tournament will pit the two visiting teams against each other in a dual meet; because the tournament is at Chicago this year, the Spartans will face NYU. Then, the loser of that dual will wrestle against the home team, Chicago. The third match will consist of the winner of the first match and Chicago.
“It doesn’t seem like either team has had their best lineup … but there’s no doubt they could save their best lineup for this event,” said Song.
Song’s strategy going into the tournament is to have his team focus on their strengths in preparation for the competition. He firmly believes this will give the Spartans the best chance to win this year, as opposed to scouting the other teams and learning their tendencies.
CWRU has not won a wrestling UAA title since 1996. With a team that has steadily improved all year, this could be the jump Song didn’t see in the team’s last event.
“My standard is no mental mistakes,” Song said. “I’m okay with physical mistakes, I’m even okay with technical mistakes … We can’t afford to make mental mistakes and still win.”
That may translate to championship hardware this weekend.