Wrestling Golden Bears Classic sliderThe University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program achieved a major milestone on Saturday, as the Cascades men’s team finished atop the aggregate standings at the Golden Bear Open in Edmonton.

It’s the first tournament championship for the fledgling UFV squad, which is in its first season of Canada West competition and was participating in just its second official conference meet.

The Cascades men won in decisive fashion, combining for 49 points to outdistance the host University of Alberta Golden Bears (32 points), Winnipeg Wesmen (31), Calgary Dinos (29), Regina Cougars (27) and Saskatchewan Huskies (26).

“It’s amazing,” enthused Raj Virdi, who co-coaches the Cascades with Arjan Bhullar. “We didn’t even have our full lineup, and we were able to be the best team in Canada West this weekend. It’s something that’s tremendous, and myself and Arjan and the team have worked really hard to get to where we’ve gotten so far. Throughout the tournament, everyone wrestled really well.”

The Cascades saw three individuals climb to the top step of the podium – Aso Palani (61 kg), Jasmit Phulka (82 kg) and Manheet Kalhon (120 kg). According to Virdi, gold medals from Palani and Phulka were hardly a surprise – Phulka finished atop his division for the third time this season, with prior victories at the Calgary Dinos Invitational and the SFU International.

Kalhon, on the other hand, managed a significant upset in the heavyweight class, beating Kyle Nguyen of the Winnipeg Wesmen 7-5 in the final. Nguyen won the silver medal at CIS nationals last season.

“Manny wrestled really well,” Virdi said. “It came down to the last 30 seconds, and he pulled off a really good victory.”

Other UFV wrestlers to earn points included Chanmit Phulka, who made it to the 100 kg final before falling 10-6 to Spencer Watkins of the Okotoks Wrestling Club; Dave Sharma, who managed a bronze at 57 kg in his first tourney back after recovering from a dislocated elbow; Brad Hildenbrandt, who won bronze in the 90 kg class; and Aman Kaler, who was fifth at 65 kg.

On the women’s side, the Cascades had one wrestler in action – Julianna Bouwers, in the 51 kg division. She lost in the quarter-finals to eventual silver medalist Hayley Thomas of the Alberta Pandas.

On the horizon for the UFV wrestling program is its first Canada West home meet – the Cascade Classic, which will be held Feb. 1 at the Envision Athletic Centre.