There’s taking an opponent to the mat—and then there’s delivering a purple choke-hold to the competition.
This past weekend, the Mustangs wrestling team put together one of their greatest performances of the season during the National Open Wrestling Championships in St. Catharines.
“[This was an] open tournament [with] not only varsity but all the guys who are on the national team, so it was really tough going in, but we had really good results, one of the best ever,” Ray Takahashi, head coach of the Mustangs, said.
Overall, seven Mustangs medalled with another nine wrestlers finishing in the top six. Two of the brightest Mustangs performances were courtesy of Steven Takahashi and Ilya Abelev.
Steven won gold in both the junior and senior men’s 55kg division.
“[Steven] was an underdog, definitely a lot of people didn’t expect him to win. I knew it was going to be close. He’s competitive with those guys and he’s had some tough matches,” Takahashi said. This was a milestone accomplishment—Steven’s gold was the first Western individual senior men’s title since Russ Howe’s in 1987.
Steven’s teammate Abelev also brought gold back to Western by winning the junior 66kg division. Both wrestlers will be representing Canada at the upcoming Junior Worlds in June.
Strong performances were also seen from Valerie Ouellette, who took silver in the junior women’s 44kg division, and Western recruit Brian Cowan, who took bronze in the junior men’s 50kg division. “[Ouellette will] probably go to the Junior Pan-Ams,” Takahashi said, due to Ouellette’s recent success.
Takahashi is also enthusiastic when discussing the potential addition of Cowan, a Dorchester native, to next year’s team.
“[Cowan] comes in and trains with us. He’s one of our homegrown guys,” he said.
Other significant recruits include Alyssa Medeiros and Ingmar Salvador-Guzman, both London natives, who Takahashi believes would provide additional strength to the varsity teams.
As a whole, this event seemed to encapsulate the Mustangs’ season perfectly.
“We won the Ontario junior title for men and women, won the Ontario University Athletics for men, and our junior men just came second in the National Open. In the end, we were third in CIS for the men, which is pretty good too,” Takahashi said.
Building on this year’s success is pivotal, as the National Open will be coming to Western next spring.
“We’re hosting next year. That will be exciting for us, we’re going to use that home field advantage to the best of our ability,” Takahashi said.
The Mustangs wrestling team looks to be destined for success and will aim to further fill the Thames Hall trophy case in 2012-13.