Tuesday February 27th 2018

The U-Sports Wrestling Nationals took place this past weekend and for the first time in my career, I got to experience it as a coach.  Throughout my wrestling career I competed at five U-Sports National (Formerly known as the CIS) championships, the maximum that you were allowed to do and all for Concordia University.  My record was not all that impressive but wasn’t all that bad either (Two bronze medals, a Silver medal and All-Canadian status, one injury forfeit and a 7th place finish).  No matter how many tournaments you go to, school and varsity competition always seem to have a special quality to it.  School sports are fun at any level in the sense that you may have a different set of friends that you would from your club team, or maybe you’ve made new friends on your school team from the fact that your univeristy was able to attract some different talent from elsewhere.

The venue (Photo property of Jason Chen)

Every year is a juggling act as athletes are sometimes moved around in weight in an effort to fill all the weight categories.  The more coverage is obviously key as a weight class that is voided results in missed points.  The team dynamic comes into play more than ever as individual results count towards the final standings.  As an alumnus of Concordia, I’ve always had a soft spot for my first alma mater.  I was not part of a large team but we were a pretty tight-knit group.  Our results weren’t all that good as a team either and just the survival of the program hinged on our results.  How times have changed.

At the U-Sports Nationals, Concordia fielded its largest combined Mens and Womens Team ever.  The Concordia Men have had a rich tradition in winning National Titles in the past, and haven’t had too much trouble recruiting wrestlers for the team in recent years but with the women, it’s always been an issue.  Concordia has had some very strong female athletes compete for them in the past.  World Champion Martine Dugrenier, World University Champion Linda Morais and Junior World Bronze Medalist Jade Dufour (and current team member) have all donned the Maroon and Gold for Concordia before but these women represent different generations and have never been on the same team for an extended period of time.  With this generation of Concordia Women, we see a good balance of athetes that have been home-grown and recruited and as a coach and a former alumnus, this makes me very happy seeing that I’ve had the priviledge to work with many of them.

The medals (Photo property of Jason Chen)

While we’re speaking about the Women’s Team, it would be remiss to to not mention the quality on the Men’s side.  The Men’s side boasts a plethora of talent with experience in many levels of international competition.  Leading the pack would have to be Jordan Steen, Alex Moore and Vincent De Marinis who all qualified for the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.  The team also features Junior National Medalists, Aron Orzack, Sam Barmish Dylan McLean and Senior Bronze Medalist Frederique Choquette.  In short, there isn’t a shortage of experienced wrestlers that could win medals at the tournament.

Francis and Amanda: VMC Proud! (Photo property of Jason Chen)

From a personal standpoint, I feel an incredible sense of pride in seeing two former Vincent Massey Collegiate wrestlers compete at the U-Sport Nationals, Francis Carter and Amanda Savard.  Both are graduates from the high school program that I created and both have blended academics and athletics in such a way that it serves as an example of the beauty that is the complete individual that can combine both sports and school so seamlessly.  I’ve worked with these two since they were young and impressionable teenagers and to see the confident and successful adults that they’ve become both on and off the mat is one of the most rewarding experiences of my coaching career.  The fact that I was able to partake in their medal run this year very satisfying as Amanda took Bronze in her first year and Francis defied the odds to win Gold and the National Title.  Can’t wait till next year!