As the Wheaton men’s wrestling team headed into the last half of their season, it looked like their work was paying off as they had experienced both individual and team success on the mat. Unfortunately, the Thunder had a disappointing team finish last Saturday at the Manchester Spartan Mat Classic in North Manchester, Indiana. In competition with 12 other teams, Wheaton finished eighth.
While the team finish may have been subpar, the Thunder had four individual wrestlers finish in the top 10 in each of their respective weight classes at the open tournament. The top performer for the Thunder was junior Carlos Fuentez at 125 pounds. Fuentez, who is the ninth ranked wrestler in Division III at 125 pounds, continued his season success with a first place finish. In fact, in the final championship match, Fuentez was able to top Baldwin Wallace’s Nicholas Berry in a 22-7 technical fall, which means Fuentez was beating his opponent by so many points that they stopped the match early. Junior David Aiello also helped the Thunder with an individual finish of third place in the 197-pound weight class. Although Aiello was defeated in his semifinal match, he put up a valiant fight against three-time national champion Riley Lefever. Aiello then won his last two consolation matches to earn his top-three finish.
Other notable finishers from the open tournament are juniors Owen Feenstra and Tim Blickle. Feenstra was able to finish sixth at 165-pounds and Blickle finished eighth in the 174-pound weight class. Both were able to wrestle smart and it paid off as they each got top finishes.
Furthermore, all of the juniors who wrestled in the open tournament that weekend were able to place. Part of the success that many of the Thunder wrestlers have seen this season is, in part, because “our team has found our groove,” said junior Owen Feenstra. Feenstra continued, explaining how the “guys have put in a lot of extra work on and off the mat.”
That work certainly showed as the Thunder continued the back half of their season with their first home dual match against University of Chicago. It was a back-and-forth match from the beginning. At one point, the Thunder found themselves down 12 points, but were able to push for a late comeback.
It came down to the final match between Wheaton’s sophomore Max Gierke and University of Chicago’s Patrick Mulkerin in the 285-pound weight class. Going into this final match, the score was 21-19 with University of Chicago at the advantage. In the final minute of the first period, Gierke was able to gain the advantage of Mulkerin and pinned him to take the individual win, which pushed the team score to 25 and helped the Thunder win 25-21.
As the Thunder look to finish up the last quarter of their season, Feenstra said the team hopes to continue to get better and get ready for postseason.
“We need to keep wrestling with our motto in mind, ‘to strain,’ and squeeze every last ounce of energy out of our performances,” said Feenstra.
The Thunder will continue their season next Friday, Jan. 27 when they will host the Pete Willson-Wheaton Invitational.