Wrestling for experience
By Ian Ross
Experience is the key to success at any level of athletic competition.
Thus, with the Western wrestling team losing half of last year's team to graduation, it appeared head coach Ray Takahashi would be spending the year rebuilding. Instead, at the half-way point in the season, he finds his team ranked sixth nationally, thanks in part to the hard work of nine freshmen.
Takahashi could not be happier with the quality of the new recruits. "We had our best recruiting year yet," he said. "This is a stronger team on paper then last year."
Using a more aggressive recruiting strategy, Western went after many of the top secondary school athletes in Ontario to not only fill the void, but also field a competitive team. By marketing their own well-recognized wrestlers and sending a team representative to the Ontario high school championships for the first time in many years, Western was able to bring back many of the province's best.
"There are a lot of rookies on the team this year which is good for the future," captain Scott Proctor said. "They have only been able to get a few bouts under their belt, but are quickly getting used to university competition."
At the Brock Invitational tournament last weekend, the youthful Mustang squad faced tough competition from both sides of the border and finished the meet in fifth place. Veteran's Kyle Chocorlan (57kg) and Ken Spurvey (65kg) placed third in their respective divisions, but it was the muscle of rookie Rob MacDonald which carried the team.
MacDonald, a first-year kinesiology student, won four matches including an exciting overtime win over Pittsburg's Dusquesne University to take second place in the tournament.
The strong performance comes on the heels of a second-place finish at the University of Toronto meet and finishing fifth at the McMaster tournament. This success is even more remarkable based on the fact the Brock and McMaster meets are often regarded as the toughest competitions during the fall season. Inexperienced at the varsity level, MacDonald still holds a solid background in competitive wrestling, winning the silver medal at the Ontario high school championships last year.
Proctor has been impressed with the performance of the young rookie. "He brought a strong level of skill from high school and has improved as the season [went] on," he said.
Due to the large number of inexperienced athletes on the Mustang roster, Proctor, a Canadian all-star last season, feels both the other veterans and himself have taken a different approach to the season to adapt to the new team make-up,
"The veterans have helped the rookies on the mat by pairing up with them and helping them with their technique," he said.
With every match adding more experience to the overall skill of the team, Western looks to be a strong contender for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.
"I think we could surprise a few teams this year," Proctor said. "We should take top three in Ontario and sixth nationally."