It's tough to stay on top of the world. Just ask the Dinos. After a dominant season last year, the wrestlers, especially the guys, had their work cut out for them heading into Canada West finals Feb. 16-17 in Winnipeg. With the upstart University of Alberta and the always dangerous teams from the prairies right at their heels, the defending champs had to battle for another set of conference titles.
"The women really dominated and pretty much crushed them," said Head Coach Mitch Ostberg after the meet. "For the men, it was going to be close. We had to wrestle well to win and we did that."
With their impressive performance at the Canada West meet, both the teams find themselves sitting pretty heading into Nationals at Lakehead University March 1-3. The women removed any doubts of
their outright supremacy and won five of the seven weight classes; captain Melissa Kindratsky earned Outstanding Female Wrestler honours. The men had a tougher time, but snuck in a win edging provincial rivals Alberta by one point.
Mike Stitt, Mat Farrell, Brad Neve and David Kooperberg all won their weight classes and veteran Joe Loucks, Hakan Kadir and newcomers Jeremy Rudeck and Anthony Baldwin all earned bronze medals and a trip to Nationals. While Loucks only lost the top spot because of tie breakers, Kadir is expected to better his performance at the national meet.
"Hakan we have high hopes for," said Ostberg. "He's got to wrestle his best."
Rudeck's third-place finish in the tough heavyweight division is a positive side note, but the rookie Baldwin was the story of the tournament; he moved up from 76kg to 90kg to fill an empty spot on the roster and came away with a medal.
"I didn't expect it out of him in his first year," said Ostberg. "He was one of the reasons our team did so well."
"He's an inspiration to watch," added teammate Stitt. "He just attacks, attacks, attacks."
With Baldwin's surprise performance, Calgary qualified wrestlers in eight of the 10 weight classes which allowed the Dinos to keep pace with the top-ranked team from Brock University, the University of Alberta, Guelph University and the host Lakehead.
The women qualified wrestlers in every weight category and look poised to repeat as national champions.
"We can't take it for granted," said Ostberg about his women's team. "We're going to be ready."
"I want to bring away the team title," said Elise Cameau, one of the victorious Dino women. "Any one of those schools can step up. Even though we were ranked first we never looked back and that's what we need."
As for the men, the team will need some more magic from Neve, Stitt and Farrell to complement Kooper-berg, the only Dino heavily favoured in his weight class.
"It would be great to win the team title," said Stitt after a solid tournament where he beat every one of his opponents by technical superiority. "We're confident we can do it."
"The league is very even; you can't write anyone off," smiled Ostberg. "I love to wrestle [the other schools] head to head. That's what I look forward to the most. It's a fun tournament, and it'll be a great challenge."