By Kara Martens
Another dominant performance at the University of Alberta’s Golden Bear Invitational last weekend further proved Dinos wrestling dominance. The tournament included many potential Canada West and Canadian rivals giving the Dinos a chance to gauge their strength and gain confidence for the upcoming championships
"We have a very good shot at winning both [men’s and women’s championships]," says usually reticent Head Coach Mitch Ostberg.
Ostberg’s confidence is well founded. With a number of returning veterans and talented rookies, the men’s wrestling team has filled more weight categories than in past years, giving the Dinos a much better chance at a team title.
"We have the right people eligible to field a full team," he says.
The team’s performance is evidence of the quality and completeness of the men’s team. Finishing first in the varsity team standings with a score of 22, the Dinos finished ahead of second-place U of A who had a score of 17 points and third-place University of Regina (16 points). The U of R was last year’s Canada West champion and finished in second place at the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics championships.
The University of Calgary was also represented by the U of C Wrestling Club, a club which includes wrestlers of many ages and levels, and has sent many members to national and international competitions. The club fought to a second place finish for the men behind the British Columbia powerhouse Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club.
Good individual performances came from a number of athletes. Top-ranked rookie Mike Stitt took first place among varsity athletes in the 54kg weight class. Also taking top place for a varsity athlete were national team hopeful Andy Hutchinson (58kg), Dave Kooperberg (69kg), and Paul McConnell (85kg).
Also placing was D.J. LeDrew in the 69kg weight class who finished fourth as a varsity athlete and sixth overall. Brad Neve finished third in the 85kg weight class behind teammate McConnell and rival Chris Cox of Regina. Neve’s finish did not reflect the effort seen by Ostberg.
"Brad Neve had an excellent weekend," says Ostberg. "He has had good matches in the past but he wrestled a complete weekend."
"Through the years, wrestling in more competitions, you get more comfortable," explains fourth-year Dino Neve. However, Neve was unhappy with his performance against future CW and CIAU challenger Cox.
Neve will be concentrating on his training and working on peaking at CI’s in February.
"I am trying to be more focused on training, not results," he said.
The women’s team also placed first as a varsity team, 18 points ahead of second placed Alberta. This is no surprise for the Dinos who were last year’s CI champions and have not slipped from first in the rankings this year. Because this is only the second year that women’s wrestling has been a CIAU sport, no women from last year’s team have lost eligibility.
The team is further strengthened by new talent, such as Breanne Graham, who finished first in the 61kg weight class. Graham, who started wrestling at Annie Gale Junior High School in Calgary, may be new to the CIAU, but is no freshman to wrestling. She has already claimed seven national titles and has placed as high as third at the world championships.
"I would like to do a little more on leg defense," says Graham of her preparation for upcoming events. "I will also scrimmage more to get good mat experience."
She has plenty of women on her team to give her that experience including four of last year’s CIAU champions.
"If you go against people better than you it makes you better", says Graham.
The champions showed they are in good shape to defend their titles this weekend. Julie Harris (53kg) was the second placed varsity athlete, Kate Eckfeldt was the top varsity athlete in the 57kg class and Trish Leibel took the 65kg weight class. Also placing for the women’s team was Robyn McDonald, top varsity athlete in the 70kg weight class.