Wrestlers snag share of OUA title
The Lakehead men’s wrestling team made history on Saturday, ending one of the OUA’s most dominant championship runs, to a certain extent. With 59 points apiece the CIS No.
The Lakehead men’s wrestling team made history on Saturday, ending one of the OUA’s most dominant championship runs, to a certain extent.
With 59 points apiece the CIS No. 3 Thunderwolves shared the conference title with the 15-time defending champion No. 10 Brock Badgers at the Western Mustangs-hosted event at London, Ontario. It was the first OUA championship in the rich wrestling history of Lakehead men’s wrestling and the first time since 1970-71 that the OUA men’s championship was shared when Waterloo and Western earned top honours.
Always a contender, Lakehead, despite having produced several national champion and Olympic wrestlers dating back to its years in the Great Plains Athletic Conference had consistently been hidden in the large shadow of the powerhouse Badgers program since joining the OUA in the late 1980s. Behind gold-medal efforts from junior Gaston Tardif (Calgary) in the 57-kilogram division, freshman Dustin Helwig in the 61-kilogram weight class, and senior Corey Lee in the 82-kilogram group Lakehead grabbed a piece of the conference spotlight in head coach Brock Curtis’ first season at the helm.
Lakehead’s three men’s gold medals tied the Guelph Gryphons for tops at the meet while five others reached the podium.
On the women’s side, the Thunderwolves snagged 39 points and earned a team bronze with sophomore Aislynn Torfason winning the 59-kilogram gold and senior Nicole Plummer taking top spot in the 82-kilogram weight class.
Coach Curtis, named OUA coach of the year, was humbled by his alma mater’s unprecedented ascent but thrilled by the persistence and camaraderie of his squad. “Not only did the men’s team win, but the women’s team wrestled incredibly well,” said Curtis, a former CIS silver medalist. “It was great wrestling. What a team. We had such support on the sidelines for our teammates. It was like a family on the sidelines, like a home crowd.”
The Thunderwolves’ accomplishments were attained despite several obstacles. Defending CIS 72-kilogram champion Chadd Lee was unable to compete due to injury and in the 130-kilogram division, freshman Preston Mikulasik of Thunder Bay capped an improbable recovery from a lower body injury to grab a silver medal.
On the women’s side, senior Katelyn Proulx was a late substitute for CIS 82-kilogram champion Emma Brightwell in the 72 kg weight class and also took silver.
Other Thunderwolves wrestlers to contribute to the overall medal haul were men’s grapplers Steve Gross winning 54-kilogram bronze, Jason Bresele of Thunder Bay attaining 65-kilogram bronze and Scott Christian pinning bronze in the 68-kilogram class. Junior Laurel Knowles took the women’s fourth medal in the 63-kilogram group.
Lakehead podium finishers will all head to the CIS Championships, March 5-6 at the University of Calgary.