The Wildcats traveled to Columbus, Ohio on January 18 to compete in the National College Duals. Mater Dei rolled over, Lisbon, 56-12 in the first round, and Cincinnati Lakota East, 58-13, in the second round. Their last opponent, St. Paris Graham, was much more formidable. The national polls had Mater Dei at 11th, while St. Paris Graham was ranked second. St. Paris Graham was a buzz saw and defeated the ‘Cats, 39-15. The loss broke Mater Dei’s 116-match winning streak and handed Mater Dei its second dual loss in 253 matches.
"If our streak mattered, we wouldn't have accepted this challenge,” said Mike Goebel. “We never talk about that. We just saw this as a chance to wrestle a quality opponent, somebody who will make us better in the long run.”
St. Paris Graham was the real deal. Standard-bearer Blake Maurer lost only the second match of his career, a 3-1 decision to Joe Dennis.
"It was a great match," said Goebel. “He (Dennis) got a takedown with two seconds left. We didn't question it when we were there, but when we watched the tape, Blake was clearly out of bounds and Dennis' foot was on the line. The match should've gone overtime, I guess. But that doesn't necessarily change the outcome. The guy was a bear. Blake will learn from it, go on and get better."
"The guys came back to the room and decided they needed to work harder, and that's what they've done," said Goebel. "We didn't lose anything that really mattered, we just lost a match. But even at that, if we win all four of our close matches, it's a tie. And if we get those and Craig Weinzapfel gets the pin at 145, which we thought he had, well, we could conceivably win." Maurer faced an unfamiliar foe in his match with Dennis: Nerves.
“To be totally honest, I was very nervous,” said Maurer. “The match was at Ohio State. I really wanted to go to Ohio State. After my warm-up, I look in the stands and there is Russ Hellickson (Ohio State’s wrestling coach) setting next to my dad. I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I need to get it done out here.’”
Mater Dei tallied wins from Matt Coughlin, Craig Weinzapfel, Sam Wildeman and Chaz Schwartz. Schwartz won with an eight-second pin at heavyweight. The Wildcats were disappointed with their performance.
“The whole dual was about ‘What ifs?’” said Craig Weinzapfel. “We had a bunch of one-point matches that went the wrong way. To not do our best was a real let-down.”
In Paris St. Graham, Mater Dei found themselves sampling their own medicine.
“Everywhere we wrestled, people always talked about what good shape we were in,” said Craig Weinzapfel. “That team (St. Paris Graham) was in incredible shape; incredibly strong. It seemed like they had the mentality that they were going to go as hard as they could no matter what.”
“We were at the weigh-in,” said Wildeman. “I’m looking at this guy, and he is around my size (160 pounds). One of the guys on the team, said ‘No, that’s who Macke (125 pounds) has. The guy was huge. He was a man.”
“Graham won all of the close matches,” said Maurer. “Their conditioning was better than ours. We had our opportunities; we just didn’t get it done.”