Trailblazing is nothing new to the Dinos wrestling team. After winning the first ever women’s Canada Interuniversity Athletic Union women’s wrestling championship last March they were the overwhelming favourites to become the first Canada West women’s champions when they walked into their home gym last Friday. There were congratulations but no surprises as they claimed another title. The meet saw the Dinos take five of seven individual championships over their competitors from the universities of Alberta, Regina and Saskatchewan.
Erica Sharp (53kg), Kate Eckfeldt (57kg), Leslee Laverdure (61kg), Breanne Graham (65kg), and Trish Leibel (70kg) all finished the afternoon undefeated. In the 48kg weight class, Stacey Williamson of the University of Calgary finished third and Robyn MacDonald came in second in the 77kg category.
The strong performances across all the classes gave the Dinos the team title with a score of 37 points. The U of A finished in second with 27 points followed by the U of R with 18 points and trailed by the U of S with 13. The Dinos’ Kate Eckfeldt was also named the outstanding female wrestler of the meet due in part to her 2-0 record but also for an exciting turn-around match against Melissa Drotar of the University of Saskatchewan.
"[Eckfeldt] threw and pinned a girl who was beating her pretty badly," remarked head coach Mitch Ostberg. "It was the strongest come-from-behind in all the matches."
Eckfeldt’s other win came against Tasha Liddle of the U of A who fell much easier by a pin in the first 30 seconds of the match.
The Canada West championships gave the Dinos a chance to prepare for the CIAU championships that take place at the University of Western Ontario in less than two weeks.
"It was exciting because it was our first performance in duals," said Erica Sharp. "We can gauge our performance as a team."
Sharp attributed the continued success of women’s team to the style of the Dinos organization.
"I think lots of the teams in the CI’s train hard, but here in Calgary we train especially hard and we give the same investment to the women as the men. When you put that kind of effort in it will show."
Laverdure gave credit to the many veteran wrestlers on the women’s team.
"Half of our women are on the national team," said Laverdure. "When you practice with the national team it raises the level of the room."
The CW championship this year is mainly symbolic. As was the case last year, the women qualify for CI’s by placing in the top three of any of the CIAU-sanctioned meets throughout the year. It is expected that this will change in a year or two when a placing at Canada West is the sole qualifier for an individual to proceed to CI’s. The relative unimportance of the meet caused a decrease in the level of competition. Both the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan sent much less than a complete team.
"It was disappointing there weren’t more girls from Regina and Saskatchewan," said Laverdure.
Laverdure, especially, will be faced with much stiffer competition at CI’s where she will be wrestling in the 65kg weight class, two classes higher than normal for her. She is prepared for the challenge.
"Physically I’m stronger," she said. "I can finish my attacks and do what I have to do."
After CI’s, Laverdure’s next goal is to place well at the junior national championships in less than a month.