Joe Bentley was the enemy.
His curly (bleached?) afro was evil, and his wrestling prowess was reviled. He was wrestling my best friend, Kristian Leach, in a high school city final. Kristian was in grade 12, Bentley was a grade 11 punk. Kristian had "Leach 3:16" signs in the crowd, Bentley's fans wore fake afros. We chanted "Leach!" They chanted "Fro!"
In the spotlight, when it counted, Bentley won.
"That was a great match," recalls Bentley with a grin. "I beat him that day, but I was so nervous. We had some great matches, but that one takes it for sure."
Bentley won another big match years later, when he beat reigning Canadian University Sport Champion Mickey Jutras at the Canada West Championships. Bentley joined teammates David Kooperberg and Mike Stitt in the ranks of Dinos' gold medalists and helped propel his team to a Canada West title.
"It really meant a lot for us to beat Simon Fraser," said Bentley. "It felt good to win my medal, but it felt really good to win the team title. Last year, we lost to Regina by only one point."
Bentley came up big in his final match, and won Wrestler of the Meet honours along with his medal. He was also named CIS Athlete of the Week, a rare feat for a wrestler, much less a "little guy."
"I was going to Disneyland, but I have to finish my term," laughs Bentley. "I won't even get a belt buckle."
Belt buckle? Apparently, Bentley has his eye on one and Dinos Head Coach Mitch Ostberg holds the key to "Fro's" happiness.
"I might get that belt buckle if I win a national championship," says Bentley. "When I asked him for it earlier in the season--when I was still hurt--Mitch told me 'You have to do a hell of a lot more than you've done so far.'"
So far, Bentley's chances at that belt buckle are looking fairly good. Already having defeated Jutras, the next challenge is Brock University's Ryan Weicker who is ranked first in the nation to Bentley's second.
"I think it's a fair ranking," says Bentley. "The Brock wrestler is really explosive. But I'm looking forward to it. I have one of the matches that we have to win to win the national championship. I need to come up with a great match."
Calgary is in tough with Brock, as well as Simon Fraser University. All three teams are extremely strong on the men's side, with each team sporting at least a pair of heavily favoured wrestlers. For Calgary, that pair is Kooperberg and Stitt, but they will not be enough to win the team title. The Dinos need Bentley and Ryan Andrusky to step up as well, for the Dinos to have any chance at the team title.
On the women's side, the Dinos are in tough. Both SFU and Brock have great teams, and with Calgary athletes wrestling in heavier weight categories just to fill the roster, something amazing is necessary for a team win. However, the Dinos--both men and women--are strong. But with athletes like Bentley in the fold, a lot of people might watch their best friend lose a match.