Last weekend, Calgarians got to see the Canadian Olympic wrestling team compete without paying $2,000 to fly to Sydney. The University of Calgary hosted the prestigious Canada Cup of Wrestling, the last warm-up tournament before Olympic competition begins in September. The meet featured Canada's reigning Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year Daniel Igali, his Canadian teammates and competitors from eight other nations including large contingents from Austria, Australia, and the U.S.
Several former and current U of C Dinos represented Canada at the tournament. Two-time Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union champion Trish Leibel, a familiar name to Dinos wrestling fans, was named Outstanding Canadian Female Wrestler. Leibel tore through the competition on an undefeated run to a gold medal in the 62-kilogram category. Other victorious female Dinos included Erica Sharpe, who defeated teammate Breanne Graham to capture the gold in the 56-kilogram weight class. Dinos club member and three-time world champion Christine Nordhagen also won a gold medal after she pinned German opponent Nina Englich in only 48 seconds. Julie Harris placed fourth in the 46-kilogram division, rounding out a successful day for Dinos women.
On the men's side, the Dinos were also well represented. CIAU champion Mike Stitt earned a sixth-place finish in the tough 54-kilogram division which also showcased Canadian Olympian Paul Ragusa. Dinos alumni Andy Hutchinson got a third-place finish and former Dino Wade Elliot earned a silver medal for his efforts against Steve Rose, the Outstanding Male Canadian at the tourney. Dinos club members Ryan Andrusky and Peter De Jong both placed fourth completing an impressive performance for Dinos athletes.
Of course, the main attractions of the tournament were World Champion Daniel Igali and his fellow Canadian Olympians. Igali impressed throughout the tournament but the audience was disappointed when Australian Rein Ozoline withdrew from the highly anticipated final match. Paul Ragusa beat out fellow Canadian James Crowe in the final with a 3-1 come-from-behind victory in overtime. Guivi Sissauri had to settle for silver when he was forced to pull out for medical reasons.
By far the most entertaining match of the tournament was between 2000 Olympian Justin Abdou and Gary Holmes, an Olympian from 1988 and 1992. The two competitors have a long history of rivalry and this was evident throughout the match. Abdou and Holmes fought well into overtime when Holmes was poked in the eye and a shoving match ensued. Abdou won the match on caution points, but neither athlete felt like the fight was done. The two raced towards each other after the match and almost came to blows. Luckily, they were separated by their coaches and a courageous Japanese team before any unpleasantness could take place.
The 2000 Canada Cup was a success for Canada, for Dinos' wrestling and for the university. Canada won in the medal standings, the Dinos had a strong showing on the mat and the U of C got to host a prestigious event and attract attention from around the world.
Dinos' wrestling coach and event organizer Mitch Ostberg was happy with the tournament festivities.
"It was great to host such an important event and get our wrestlers some international experience," Ostberg remarked. "I am very pleased with our athletes and the way the held their own against some tough competition."
Canadian wrestling coach Dave McKay was also impressed with the athletes and the meet.
"Our objective was to prepare the Olympic Team and we did that quite well," remarked McKay. "The timing of the event was perfect and the level of competition was just right. We got some success for our athletes and we feel confident heading to Sydney."
As for Calgary's efforts in hosting the event, he said, "The U of C did an excellent job. It was very easy to enjoy this weekend in Calgary. Any time you have a first-class facility like the U of C, the competitions run smoothly."
So the Canada Cup is over and the participants went their separate ways. Some will go to class in September, while others will be in Australia for the greatest athletic meet of all. Many will come back in 2001, when Calgary will host its second Canada Cup in a row.