THUNDER BAY – Jessica Hong was not expecting immediate success as she made the jump to wrestling at the university level.
The Ottawa native figured it might take some time to perfect her moves.
But a fourth-place finish at the McMaster Invitations and a second-place at the York Open might have her re-evaluating those expectations.
On Tuesday the rookie wrestler was her sport’s female athlete of the month for November.
“It is a really big honour. I didn’t think that I would get it right away. I’m a rookie on the team and this is my first year. We’ve gone to two tournaments, three tournaments now and it’s been really good being part of the team,” Hong said.
The team has made the transition to university wrestling that much easier, she added.
“I’ve had a lot of the upper-year girls and guys helping me out studying, helping me organize my time and it’s been really helpful,” Hong said.
“My goals are kind of the same. Nationals is the biggest one ... but what I’ve kind of learned from being on this team is that every single day is really important – being 100 per cent every single day and if you need a rest day on the side, that’s OK too.”
Fellow freshman Aiden Evenson took home the male wrestler of the month award and also called it an honour.
“It’s really important to get that. I’ve been putting in a lot of work ... so getting that type of recognition is really nice,” he said.
“I’ve kind of changed my wrestling style quite a bit since I’ve been coming here. It’s nice to see what I’ve been working on (working) in a tournament, (getting a chance to) test it out. It’s been going good. I’m finding I’m improving more.”
Daniel Del Paggio, who scored a natural hat trick in a win over Laurier, earned the hockey honours for November.
“It’s always special to be recognized like this by your peers and your coaches. A lot of guys on our team deserved it. We had a good month all around. I just feel fortunate to have won it this month,” Del Paggio said, praising line-mates Tomas Soustal and Jordan King for helping him elevate his play, landing him in 15th spot in the OUA scoring race with six goals and 18 points.
“Tomas and Jordan are both huge parts in this and I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”
Third-year junior Meghan Routier was named women’s volleyball player of the month, while Kielly McDonough and Lock Lam were named top players in November in women and men’s basketball, respectively.
Erik Schlyter was the male skier of the month, which Erika Mihell was the female skier of the month and finally, in track and field and cross country, Colin Warwick nabbed the male honours and Thunder Bay’s Amy Stieh, who set a new school record in the 300-metre race and ranks first in the country in the category, was the female athlete of the month.