Source: Matt Gutsch, Alberta Sports Info / Photocredit Josh Shaefer
EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandaswrestling programs enter this weekend’s Canada Westchampionships in Edmonton as favourites to win both the men’sand women’s titles. The nationally No.1 ranked Golden Bearsare hunting for their first conference crown since 1985, while theCIS No.2 ranked Pandas are looking to defend their reign asconference champions.
The championship begins on the afternoon of February 15, andconcludes with the awards banquet on Saturday evening. TheUniversities of Regina, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg will allbe in competition this weekend in the U of A’s Main Gym.
Fourth-year head coach Owen Dawkins has built two very strongsquads that feature a plethora of returning stars, as well as a fewrookies that could make a name for themselves this weekend forAlberta.
The Golden Bears will be led by returning veterans and CISmedalists Coleman Brinker, Jason Wass, Drew Belanger and DylanWilliams. Mike Asselstine, the Canada West Rookie of the Meet in2008, is back with the Bears after four years away. Williams andBelanger, along with the injured Jason Margo, all claimed CanadaWest gold last season for the Bears when they finished second toRegina by just a single point.
Rookies Jarred Collins and Abdul Taj should also garner somepoints this weekend for the No.1 team in CIS, while fifth-year JeyNaicker, along with third-year Daniel Oloumni gives Alberta plentyof experience and depth.
The Pandas, winners of a CIS silver and Canada West gold in2012, are led by returning CIS medalists Sabrina Kelly, MarlenFigueroa, Molly Bouchard, Natalie Brady and Hayley Thomas. LyndseyAlmeida, Jamie Bergenstrom and Madison Beblow are all medalcontenders this weekend for Alberta as well. Brady and Thomas eachearned Canada West gold last year, while Figueroa, Bouchard, Beblowand Kelly, who is also a member of the conference champion Pandasrugby team, all earned Canada West silver at last year’schampionship. Rookie Jamie Harrington is a key part of the Pandasfuture, but due to injury, will not compete this weekend.
Regina, the defending men’s champions, are CIS ranked No.5 inwomen’s (third in Canada West) and No.8 in men’s (also third inCanada West). The Cougar men are led by Steven Schneider, whopicked up CIS gold last season, as well as returnees GoldenMusonza, John Lendvoy and Paul Grebinski. On the women’s side, 2012CIS silver medalists Jasmine Slinn and Lisa McKibben lead a stronggroup that includes Danielle Anderson. Regina finished with CanadaWest bronze in the women’s team competition last year.
The Calgary Dinos are No.3 in CIS women’s, and No.2 in CanadaWest, while the Dino men are No.9 in CIS and fourth in Canada West.Calgary finished in fourth place in both the men’s and women’s atthe 2012 Canada West championships. Holly Clark, a CIS medalist in2012, leads the Dino women, along with Shani Frugtneit, whileConnor Hodgins leads a young, but talented Calgary men’s team.
The Saskatchewan Huskies’ men’s team, led by mutiple-time CISgold medalist Ryan Myrfield, finished third at last season’sconference meet, while the Saskatchewan women finished second toAlberta. Landon Squires, the reigning CIS student-athlete awardwinner, and a national silver medalist, gives Saskatchewan a strong1-2 punch on the men’s side, while Dylan Bray and Theo Dow add tothe mix. On the women’s side, Natasha Kramble, Hannah Franson,Koren Pitkethly, Lisa Brise and Amy Dunn make the Huskiescontenders once again.
The Winnipeg Wesmen program is still new to the CIS and CanadaWest wrestling world as they only joined the competition in2011-12. Although they did finish last in both men’s and women’slast year at the Canada West level, they do have contenders on bothsides. CIS newcomer Briston Brenton, originally from Casper,Wyoming, is a former two-time State champion and was both All-Stateand All-Conference on four occassions while at Chadron StateCollege in Nebraska. He is legit contender for individual gold onthe men’s side, while older sister Jessica, the defending CanadaWest rookie of the year, is one to beat on the women’s side.
The CIS championship meet is March 1-3 at Western University inLondon, Ontario.