There were two mammoth wrestling extravaganzas this weekend. One was the WWF's Survivor Series live from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The other was an early season international tournament at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. While the competition in both events was fierce, the event in BC was especially important to the Dinos wrestlers as it kicked off the start to a season in which much is expected of them.
I had the opportunity to speak with assistant coach Leigh Vierling earlier this week about the upcoming season and his prognosis for the Dinos upcoming season. The Dinos are coming off a very successful campaign last season in which the men finished third in Canada, and the women were crowned national champions.
According to Vierling the women remain strong favourites to repeat as Canadian champions this year. They have four women wrestlers returning to the team who were national champions a season ago. Erica Sharp, wrestling in the 53kg class, was named the outstanding wrestler in last year's Canadian International Athletics Union Championships while winning the gold medal in the tournament. This summer, she traveled to Boden, Sweden to compete in the World Championships where she placed second. Trish Leibel (70kg), Melissa Kindratsky (61kg), and Julie Harris (48kg) were all CIAU gold medallists last year. The women took gold in four of the seven weight classes in last season's championship tournament and look to do the same this year.
The men also had a good season last year, finishing third in Canada. While Vierling does not see them dominating the CIAU wrestling scene like the women, he does see them as one of the countries top teams, along with the University of Regina, Guelph University and Brock University.
Returning this year is David Kooperberg, who claimed a silver medal at last year's CIAU championship and traveled to Australia this summer to compete in the World Championships. He will challenge for a national title at either the 68 or 72kg weight class this year. Paul McConnell also returns after winning gold and silver medals in the last two CIAU championships. He is a strong favorite to win gold this year in the 90kg weight class.
Also of note is D.J. LeDrew, who will compete at 72 or 76kg this year after being injured last season. He is a former bronze medallist at the national tournament and should have a solid campaign in 1999/2000. The Dinos also recruited Mike Stitt, a two-time national junior champion. Stitt will compete in the 54kg class and has a good shot at a national title as a first-year wrestler.
Coach Vierling gives both the men's and women's teams a lot of credit and a glowing forecast for the upcoming season. If Vierling is correct with his assessments and predictions, and if all goes as planned, the Dinos will have what is required to be very prominent players in the CIAU Championship Tournament at the University of Western Ontario in February of 2000.