OTTAWA (CIS) – The Brock University Badgers will look to defend both team banners this weekend when the top varsity wrestlers in the country meet in Edmonton for the 2015 CIS championships.
The two-day national meet has been held at the University of Alberta only once in the past, back in 1970. The preliminary rounds are set for Friday, starting at noon Mountain Time, with the placement matches (11 a.m.), bronze-medal bouts (12:30 p.m.) and finals (2:30 p.m.) following on Saturday at the U of A's Main Gymnasium. All sessions from both days will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.
The Badgers dominated last year's championships in Fredericton, finishing with a 14-point lead over Calgary in the women's standings and a 16-point cushion over Alberta on the men's side to sweep the team banners for the second time in program history (2014, 2002). Brock wrestlers competed in five of eight women's finals, winning three of them, and appeared in six of 10 men's gold-medal matches, winning four.
Both Brock teams once again top the national rankings heading into the 2015 CIS meet but are coming off different results at the OUA championships held earlier this month in Sudbury. While the women distanced Western by 13 points in the standings, the men settled for second place behind the McMaster Marauders, who claimed their first conference title since 1993.
"We lost the OUA men's title by just one point. That was tough, but we had a great week of practice and are prepared for the CIS championships," said Brock coach Marty Calder, whose program could become the first to repeat as double CIS champion. "There are a lot of tough teams this season, with great parity across the country. This may be one of the most exciting CIS championships in my 30 years. There are many great wrestlers competing with the goal of winning CIS gold but also striving to be part of the Canadian Olympic team in 2016.
"On the women's side, our team has worked hard all season and we are ready to go. We have a strong core of seniors, who knows what it takes to win, to go along with some top young wrestlers, which makes for an exciting time to defend our title."
In women's competition, Brock returns its three CIS champions from a year ago, including fifth-year senior Jade Parsons of Orillia, Ont., junior Carlene Sluberski of Fredonia, N.Y., and sophomore Jessica Brouillette of Barrie, Ont.
Parsons is going for her fourth straight CIS gold medal in the 48-kilogram weight class, and also claimed silver at 51 kg in 2009 when she was named rookie of the year while competing for the University of Regina. Sluberski, the OUA's outstanding female wrestler this season, won the CIS title at 55 kg as a rookie in 2013, was crowned at 51 kg a year ago and is back at 55 kg in 2015. Brouillette captured CIS gold at 59 kg as a freshman last winter but settled for OUA bronze two weeks ago.
Other reigning national champions set to compete in Edmonton this weekend include Alberta's Marlen Figueroa (67 kg), Concordia's Veronica Keefe (72 kg) and Guelph's Kelsey Gsell (82 kg). Figueroa won't defend her title at 67 kg however as she moved up two categories this season to 82 kg, finishing second in that weight class at the Canada West championships in Calgary.
Top-seeded Brock could tie a pair of all-time marks with another triumph on Saturday, including most women's team titles overall (5) and most consecutive banners (4). The Canada West champion Calgary Dinos hold the No. 2 spot in the national rankings, with Alberta, Guelph and Western rounding out the top five.
Calgary has qualified athletes in seven of eight weight classes for the CIS meet, compared to six apiece for Brock and Alberta, five for Guelph and four for Western.
On the men's side, the Badgers, who hold a record 14 CIS team banners, also return three CIS champions from a year ago, including sophomore Sam Jagas of Kitchener, Ont., junior Brian Cowan of Dorchester, Ont., and fifth-year veteran Matrixx Ferreira of Ajax, Ont.
Jagas was named the CIS male rookie of the year in 2014 following his triumph at 54 kg. Cowan is looking for his third CIS podium in as many campaigns at 57 kg, after a third-place finish in 2013 and his gold-medal win last winter. Ferreira is already a two-time national champion, at 76 kg in 2013 and in his current category of 82 kg in 2014, but settled for silver at the recent OUA meet.
Their teammates Tyler Rowe (72 kg) and Andrii Vorontsov (100 kg) are also at the top of their weight class going into the weekend. Rowe and his older brother Nick (65 kg), also an OUA champion this season, are looking to become the first brothers to win double gold at the CIS championships since Concordia's Mike (61kg) and Pat Sullivan (68kg) accomplished the feat in 1986.
In addition to the Brock standouts, Alberta's Michael Asselstine (61 kg), the 2014 CIS male wrestler of the year, and Western sophomore Riley Otto (90 kg) are returning national champions.
Another competitor to keep an eye on will be Western's Steven Takahashi, who missed last year's CIS championships with an injury after being crowned at 54 kg in each of his first three university seasons from 2011 to 2013. Now competing at 57 kg, Takahashi was set to face Cowan in the OUA final in Sudbury but his Brock opponent got hurt prior to the bout. Many expect the conference rivals to battle for gold in Edmonton.
In the pre-championship men's national rankings, Brock tops McMaster by four points, with the Canada West titlist Alberta Golden Bears and Saskatchewan following in order.
Brock and McMaster, which is led by OUA male wrestler of the year Jason Buckle (61 kg), will both be represented in nine of 11 weight classes at the CIS tournament. Alberta, Western and UNB qualified eight athletes apiece, compared to six for Saskatchewan.
The men's championship is comprised of one more category this year as the traditional heavyweight class (90-130 kg) was replaced with separate under-100 kg and 100-120 kg classes.
"This is the youngest Golden Bears and Pandas teams I have had in my six years as head coach at the University of Alberta," said Owen Dawkins. "Competing at home will take away the added stress of traveling and competing in unfamiliar surroundings, but it is also important to compete for a national championship at home, which this program hasn't done in decades, so that the athletes can gain the experience of road and away championships and also showcase the program to the great wrestling community in Edmonton.
"Both the Golden Bears and Pandas have strong leaders, however, our strength lies in our unity as a program. Our wrestlers truly care about each other and their shared and individual successes on and of the wrestling mat. The Bears have the confidence of a CIS silver last season, as well as a third-straight Canada West title. That confidence at this time of year, at home, can make a big difference."
PAST CIS TEAM CHAMPIONS
Women (inaugural women's championship in 1999)
2010 Simon Fraser
2008 Simon Fraser
2006 Simon Fraser
2005 Simon Fraser
2004 Simon Fraser
2003 Simon Fraser
Men (last 20 years)
2010 Simon Fraser
2009 Simon Fraser
1999 to 2008 Brock (10 straight titles)
Complete list: Click HERE
PAST CIS WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR (last 10 years)
2014 Brianne Barry, Western (55 kg)
2013 Samantha Stewart, UNB (59 kg)
2012 Emma Brightwell, Lakehead (82 kg)
2011 Gen Haley, Calgary (55 kg)
2010 Gen Haley, Calgary (51 kg)
2009 Heidi Erdle, Calgary (59 kg)
2008 Miranda Dick, Simon Fraser (55 kg)
2007 Hana Askren, Concordia (48 kg)
2006 Emily Richardson, Simon Fraser (59 kg)
2005 Ellen Macro, McMaster (61 kg)
Complete list: Click HERE
2014 Michael Asselstine, Alberta (61 kg)
2013 David Tremblay, Concordia (61 kg)
2012 Preston Mikulasik, Lakehead (130 kg)
2011 Vince Cormier, UNB (61 kg)
2010 Shujon Mazumber, Toronto (54 kg)
2009 David Tremblay, Concordia (61 kg)
2008 Dustyn Fisher, Simon Fraser (90 kg)
2007 Jamie Macari, Brock (54 kg)
2006 Sheldon Francis, McMaster (82 kg)
2005 Ryan Weicker, Brock (65 kg)
Complete list: Click HERE
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times MOUNTAIN TIME)
Thursday, February 26
17:30 Weigh-ins (Van Vliet Complex – U of A)
Saturday, February 28
11:00 5th-8th place matches (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
12:30 Bronze-medal matches (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:30 Championship finals (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:30 Championship Banquet (Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel – Valley Ballroom)