Host Badgers hoping to boast championship formula again on provincial stage

Host Badgers hoping to boast championship formula again on provincial stage

BURLINGTON, Ont. – The Brock Badgers have been a well-decorated squad over the past few years, as both the men’s and women’s wrestling teams have found success on the provincial and national stages. As the rest of the OUA wrestling elite venture to Niagara for the 2018 championship on February 11, the host Badgers will look to once again bring their competition to the mats.

Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Wrestling Championship Fan Guide.

It’s no surprise that the Brock Badgers enter championship action as one of the favourites, as they are no stranger to success on the mats. Coming off of another banner season last year, Brock has remained in fine form throughout the 2017-18 campaign. And with a slew of talented wrestlers on both their No. 1 nationally ranked women’s team and No. 2 nationally ranked men’s squad, the rest of the championship field will have to keep their eyes on the bullish Badgers.  

Leading the charge for the men will be nine ranked wrestlers in their respective fields. One of the most successful this season is Ligrit Sadiku (3rd in 61kg class), who has found a great deal of podium success in the 57kg class. Sadiku has earned gold at the Guelph Open, Ontario Senior Championships, and the York Open, respectively. Match his teammates trio of golds is Cruiz Manning, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in 68kg, who has claimed top spot in the 72kg class across three events, as well golden glory at last year’s OUA Championship.

 Fellow Badgers Richard Deschatelets (97kg), Jevon Balfour (79kg), and Tyler Rowe (72kg) will bring multiple first place finishes to the mats with them, with the latter entering the event as the top ranked 72kg wrestler and a previous winner on the provincial and national stage (76kg). Joining Rowe in the national rankings are Kingston Wong (3rd in 54kg), Sam Jagas (2nd in 57kg), Mizam Tamzradze (1st in 65kg), Ty Bridgewater (6th in 76kg), Juwan Burgess (2nd in 82kg), and Ignatius Pitt (5th in 90kg), to help establish one of the most formidable squads the OUA has to offer.  

On the women’s side, it is clear why the team sits atop their U SPORTS combatants, as the team boasts a total of four wrestlers ranked first in the weight class. This potent attack has helped the Badgers to great success throughout the season, including two events – Junior Provincials and Brock Open – wherein the Badgers earned a total of five gold medals.

Among those golden finishers is Kristina McLaren (1st in 51kg), who has taken home the win at three events this year, matching the total of fellow top-ranked wrestler, Skylar Grote (1st in 72kg). The duo have been a leading force for the Badgers, along with the likes of Emily Schaefer (1st in 59kg) and Jessica Brouillette (1st in 63kg), but none of them have seen the same success as that of Hannah Taylor, who not only earned gold for Brock at last year’s championship (55kg), but has also done so at four separate events during the 2017-18 season.

Joining these ferocious females are fellow ranked wrestlers Samantha Romano (3rd in 48kg), Daina Armstrong (3rd in 55kg), Darrion Sterling (7th in 82kg), and Indira Moores (2nd in 67kg). The latter is no stranger to the big stage, as Moores enters Sunday as the reigning OUA and U SPORTS champion in the 67kg class; something that she, along with the rest of the top-ranked Badgers squad, will be look to replicate on their own home turf.

Entering championship Sunday as the No. 6 nationally ranked squads for both men and women will be the Guelph Gryphons, and several key members to watch for the men’s team bring a local flare.

A big threat on the Gryphons side is Elvir Uzunovic, who brings a winning pedigree to the event. The top ranked wrestler in 61kg found success on both the provincial and national stage last year, earning silver at both championships, and will be marching toward repeat success this weekend. Also taking part in championship action is third year wrestler Alexander Chaves (4th in 72kg). The Guelph, Ont. native won the 70kg event earlier this season at the Guelph Open against a very competitive field, and also earned an OUA bronze (68kg) in 2017.

Also bringing past provincial success to the team this year will be Job Reinhart – a two-sport star who was an OUA bronze medalist in the 100kg (2017) and a 2016 First-Team OUA All-Star in football – and Dan Humphrey, who turned his OUA bronze (76kg) from 2017 into an identical finish at the U SPORTS championships as well.  

For the women, the Gryphons will turn to another top-ranked U SPORTS wrestler to lead their squad. Gracelynn Doogan (1st in 82kg) will be a threat to repeat her gold medal performance at last year’s OUA and U SPORTS championships, albeit in a different division, and will do so coming off of a recent silver medal finish (76kg) at the Guelph Open. Fellow Gryphon Chelsey Sicard will also make the trek to Niagara with the hopes of building on her strong rookie campaign. Sicard brought home a bronze last year, and has risen to the No. 2 wrestler in 55kg.

It’s never an easy task to go toe-to-toe with the purple ponies on the mats, and the Mustangs will be looking to do their Top 10 U SPORTS rankings proud come Sunday. Both the No. 8 men’s team and No. 9 women’s team will be looking to make waves at the OUA championship, and will do so with talent and experience on their side.

The women’s team not only boasts four ranked wrestlers, but three of them have cracked the top three at last year’s provincials. Christine Grafe (7th in 48kg), Michalia Walls (4th in 63kg), and Olivia Cirillo (6th in 72kg) each made the podium in their respective divisions last year and have continued their success into the 2017-18 campaign. While Grafe has added a gold medal to her collection on her home turf this season, fellow Westerner Walls has cracked the podium on three separate occasions during the season, earning a gold (Ryerson Open), silver (McMaster Invitational), and bronze (Brock Open) for her efforts. Helping to round out the talented women’s squad, meanwhile, is Jessica Ly, who is ranked 5th in the 67kg division.

A pair of No. 2 ranked wrestlers – Caleb Rutner (72kg) and Brayden Ambo (76kg) – will help Western’s men’s team gallop in with medal hopes, meanwhile, as the pair have combined for three medals this season and also found the podium at last year’s championship.  Anthony Parker (5th in 120kg), Lauchlin MacDonald (6th in 65kg), and Jackson Browning (6th in 90kg) round out the ranked purple and white, while the likes of Maharus Noorani, Kevin Marshall, and Chris Nikolaou have also medalled at various events this season to help lead the London school.      

Leading a talented group of Lakehead wrestlers into championship action this weekend will be reigning OUA Rookie of the Year Marco Palermo. Palermo, who has already earned gold medals this year at the McMaster Invitational, York Open, and Junior Provincials, will be looking to mimic his championship debut from a season ago when he topped the 54kg podium.

Along with Palermo, who ranks 3rd in the 57kg class, the Thunderwolves will be led by fellow ranked team members Jacob Luczak (3rd in 90kg), who has already earned a trio of gold medals this season; Kevin Leatherdale (4th in 61kg), who already boasts a bronze medal in that weight class at last year’s provincial finale; Sam Lockie (8th in 54kg); and Steven Powell-Chambers (8th in 65kg).

The No. 8 ranked Thunderwolves will also bring a talented – and experienced – women’s squad to Brock, led by OUA bronze medalist Jessica Bershatsky. Bershatsky tallied the third place finish last year in the 51kg class, and will enter the 2018 edition ranked 4th therein. Fellow Thunderwolves Rylies George (5th in 48kg) and Dana Campbell (4th in 82kg) will look to earn podium finishes at this year’s provincial championship, with both having previously reached top three stature at the York Open and McMaster Invitational, respectively.

There are several reasons why the McMaster Marauders men’s team find themselves ranked in the U SPORTS Top 10 (No. 10), including the likes of Ben Zahra, Connor Quinton, and Ameen Aghamirian. Starting with Zahra, the recent OUA Male Athlete of the Week will enter the championship as the reigning Ontario Senior champion at 83kg, while also holding Ontario Junior Provincial gold at 79kg. The second year wrestler will compete in the 76kg class this weekend, wherein he ranks 4th nationally.

Quinton, similar to Zahra, will also bring an Ontario Junior Provincial gold to the table this weekend (70kg), along with a silver at the Brock Open (65kg). The 4th ranked wrestler in the 65kg division will be one to watch on the championship stage, just like his teammate Aghamirian. The third year wrestler won gold at the McMaster Invitational earlier this year, but has been sidetracked with injuries. Despite this, he will be looking to find success in Niagara on Sunday.

A pair of female Marauders to watch out for at the OUA championship is Jenna Leslie and Cassandra Rufenach. The former is No. 4 in the 55kg division and won silver at the Western Open, while the latter tacked on another two second place finishes for the maroon machine at the York and Western Opens, respectively. Further key members of the women’s squad include Olivia Menard (4th in 48kg) and Simi Jayeoba (8th in 67kg).

The Algoma Thunderbirds will also have a pair of wrestlers to spotlight, as they will be led by Bryce Davis and Natasha Doroodian. Davis (5th in 68kg) has done well to compete at a high level this season, most notably with his strong performance in November at the McMaster Invitational where he finished 4th. Joining Davis on the men’s squad will be Brody Collison (4th in 54kg), Jordan Campioni (8th in 82kg), and Stephen Kreyenbuhl (7th in 90kg).

Doroodian, meanwhile, is a former OUA and U SPORT silver medalist (2015), who will be making her return to the mats for Algoma after a pair of injury-plagued seasons. The 2015 Sault Ste. Marie Sportsperson of the Year will assuredly be one to watch, as she enters the championship as the No. 5 wrestler in the 63kg division, with a 2nd place finish at the York Open already under her belt.

The York Lions will bring a collection of ranked wrestlers to the provincial stage this Sunday, led by Alexandra Town. The No. 2 ranked wrestler in the 59kg division earned top spot at the York Open earlier in the year and will strive to make her mark at the championship event as well. Among those joining Town on the women’s side will be Christelle Lans (5th in 72kg) and Christine Chan (8th in 48kg), both of whom have seen the podium throughout the season, including both a silver and bronze for Lans.

For the men, York will hope that their two ranked Lions can roar their way to championship success. The duo of Kevin Vuong (5th in 54kg) and Ali Koca (8th in 120kg) will be ones to watch for the Lions, but along with these two, York has also seen strong showings from Trevonn Paul in the 61kg division this season.

Along with a trio of new Varsity Blues wrestlers on the men’s team (two in first year, one in second year), Toronto will be looking to two-time OUA medalist Brook Jarrett to lead their women’s squad. The fourth year wrestler continues to build her impressive resume while representing the Blue and White, having already added two silver medals at the Ryerson and York Opens this season to her decorated career. Come Sunday, she will be looking for her third straight OUA podium finish after claiming bronze in the 72kg event in 2017 and bronze in the 63kg category in 2016.

Rounding out the GTA, meanwhile, will be the Ryerson Rams contingent. One of the women to watch for on Ryerson is Raquel Vengroff. The first year wrestler has made the most of her OUA debut, recently winning silver at the Ontario Junior Provincials, and will enter the championship ranked 8th in the 59kg division. For the Rams’ men’s squad, the team will be led by fellow first year Sarabnoor Lally.

Rounding out the pool of contending schools is the Queen’s Gaels.

Action will both commence and conclude on Sunday, February 11, with competition beginning at 9:30am. Matches will continue throughout the day and will wrap up with the gold medal tilts at approximately 2:30pm. Individual and team medals, as well as the championship banner, will be presented following the conclusion of competition.