Grappling for the Canada Cup

By Kevin Rothbauer

Even when school’s out and the varsity season is long over, the University of Calgary wrestlers remain dominant.

Next month, the Dinosaur wrestling club (which is not to be confused with the varsity team, even though many athletes compete for both) will be in Guelph for the Canada Cup and a high-profile national training camp.

Nine wrestlers with U of C connections will be heading east. The women’s team will feature Students Erica Sharp, Melissa Kindratsky and Breanne Graham, as well as alumna Christine Nordhagen. Students David Kooperberg, Peter DeJong and Paul McConnell will be among the men’s representatives, along with Dinosaur assistant coaches Wade Elliott and Leigh Vierling.

Vierling, who does double duty as a senior men’s wrestler and head coach of the national senior women’s team, is anticipating the competition, but sees it primarily as a springboard to bigger competitions–notably the Pan Am Games in July and world championships in September.

There’s typically a lot of strong international wrestlers, noted Vierling.

The top six wrestlers in Canada are always there. I’m more interested in the preparation part of it. The worlds and Pan Ams are my real goals, but it will be exciting to wrestle in Canada against international opponents.

At the Pan Am Games, Vierling could come up against the defending Olympic champion in his class (76kg). Because the tournament is set up through a random draw, Vierling could face him in the first round, putting a serious threat to his goal of a medal.

Sharp, currently the holder of the national title as well as the Canadian Interuniversity Union title, has a similar view to that of Vierling. Although there are no classes for female wrestlers at the Pan Am games, the Canada Cup and the training camp associated with it will give Sharp a chance to better prepare for the world championships.

I hope to get some quality training in, said Sharp. There will be some competition there that I only get to wrestle once or twice a year, so I’m excited about the competition. We had a lot of time off after nationals, so I’ll be able to assess where I’m at and set some concrete goals for worlds.

Sharp already has high hopes for the world championships.

For a number of years I’ve placed in the top five, she explained. This year I want to break the top three.

Both Vierling and Sharp have high expectations for the Canadian women’s team at the Canada Cup and the world championships.

I think Canada will do very well, said Sharp. We’re one of the strongest countries in the world. Everybody’s a really good quality wrestler, from the smallest to the heaviest. We train with the men, so we have the same mentality as them, which makes us really tough.

We should have a very strong team [at worlds], said Vierling. We were fourth last year, and this team is just as strong, if not stronger, in depth. All our European opponents are scouted, so there will be no surprises. That should pay dividends. This will be an exciting summer for me as an athlete and coach.

Leave a comment