Three Dinos set to take on the world

By Kris Kotarski

Good evening chums; I have some good news and some bad news.

"What’s the good news?" you ask in delicious glass-half-full ignorance.

Well, three University of Calgary Dinos qualified for the World University Games.

"That’s fantastic! Hooray home team!" you shout, beer spilling out of your gullet. "What’s the bad news?"

The games will be held in Edmonton.

"Hahaha, Edmonton!" you laugh. "Well, at least it’s not Winnipeg."

While a trip to Beijing where the games were held last year may have been more interesting, the victorious Dinos aren’t complaining.

"I think it’s better that we’re going to Edmonton," said David Kooperberg, one of the three hometown heroes. "You never get to see much anyway-you’re in a gymnasium all the time. It’s good that friends and family can come up."

Kooperberg qualified along with the always-impressive Mike Stitt, and the wily Erica Sharp at the recent World University Games qualifiers in Edmonton. Each faced daunting odds; beating the highest of the high, the quickest of the quick, the bravest of the brave.

"No one had an easy draw," said Dinos captain Joe Loucks. "Koop had a former national team member in his first match. I was really impressed with the way he stepped up and took a tough opponent."

Kooperberg’s road to the finals started with a thrilling 5–2 overtime defeat of Steve Rose on a reversal.

"I lost to him earlier this year in a close match," he laughed. "This is the first time I beat him. He makes every match long, tries to win in overtime so I knew if I stayed in good body position I could catch him."

Kooperberg’s final match was an 8–4 win over Danny Einhorn from Simon Fraser University and gave him the Canadian spot in the 76kg class.

"Kooperberg is our baby-faced fat kid that comes out and wins," smiled Loucks. "I don’t know how he does it but he just wins."

Mike Stitt was equally sharp in the 55kg weight class. He rolled through the competition defeating the reigning junior national champion Tony Churchill 4–2 but he had to cut 6kg off his post-Christmas heft just to make class.

"I was a little big because of Christmas," laughed Stitt. "But I kind of look at cutting weight as my job-I’ve got to be good at my job."

Stitt trained for the trials with Dinos teammate Pat Yau who competed for the same spot on the University Games team. While Yau didn’t reach the final, Stitt was thankful for the added competition at Dinos practice.

"It’s great having guys like him in the room," he said. "He’s got a different style than mine-Pat’s lightning fast. I know that if I ground him, I can score on anyone."

Erica Sharp didn’t get to wrestle Pat Yau in practice-in fact there aren’t too many competitors in Canada who could give her a good match. But everyone needs a nemesis, and Sharp has one too. Brock University’s Tonya Verbeek fills that role and it is no surprise Sharp had to face her in the finals of the qualifiers.

"She’s the up-and-comer that’s been trying to topple Erica for a while," said Loucks. "At times it looked more like a boxing match, with head-butts and all."

Needless to say, the world is still round and Sharp is still winning. The Dinos star beat Verbeek when it counted and clinched berth number three for the team from Calgary.

Coming home from Edmonton, the team is thrilled with qualifying three competitors. Their two victories on the men’s side are more than any other Canadian university and that’s cause for optimism heading into the final stages of the varsity season as well as the subsequent Canadian championships. With Kooperberg, Stitt and Sharp leading the way, the Dinos look poised for success for months to come.

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