UFV wrestlers off to Calgary for first-ever Canada West tournament

UFV wrestling practice

There’s been a palpable sense of excitement in the practice gym this week for the University of the Fraser Valley wrestling team.

And rightly so – it’s a historic week for the fledgling program.

This Saturday, the Cascades hit the mats at the University of Calgary for the Dino Invitational – the first Canada West tournament of the season, and the first-ever official competition for the UFV varsity squad.

For a team making its debut, the Cascades are going into the season with uncommonly high hopes. The goal for Year 1? Merely to win the CIS men’s team championship.

“As a first-year program, I don’t think it’s been done by any other university in Canada,” acknowledged Raj Virdi, who coaches the UFV wrestling team with Arjan Bhullar. “But the team that we have this year, as long as we’re healthy, we’ll be in the running for a title, for sure.”

The confidence that the Cascades can be a contender right off the bat stems from the fact that they’ve been able to attract a solid base of talent. That’s hardly a surprise given that the Fraser Valley (and Abbotsford in particular) is a hotbed of wrestling in Canada. And UFV is currently the only CIS wrestling school in B.C. – Simon Fraser University also offers wrestling, but they compete in the NCAA.

Among the standouts are Jasmit Phulka (90 kg), a four-time national champion at various age levels who has also had international success; Jaskarn Ranu (72 kg), a national junior champ last season; and Devin Purewal (65 kg), a former provincial champion and national bronze medalist.

Likewise, the coaching staff is extremely accomplished – both Bhullar and Virdi were CIS champions during their own wrestling careers at SFU, and Bhullar is a national team athlete who won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and was an Olympian in 2012.

It’s been a long road from the establishment of the UFV varsity wrestling program in 2013 to the first Canada West competition this weekend, Virdi noted.

“We’re tremendously excited,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard – it feels like we’ve started right from the bottom, and we’re going to bring them as high as they can possibly go.

“We’ve had a lot of supporters that believe in us, and I think that’s the reason we’ve gotten so many good athletes in our program,” he added. “A couple of them are going to be Olympic-calibre once they’re done.

“I think every single one of them has the ability to get a medal (this weekend), and I think a lot of them will.”