Wrestling up some medals
By Darryl Rose
Western wrestlers closed their regular season in grand fashion, pinning down five individual medals and a bronze in the team competition during a hectic weekend at Thames Hall.
The Mustangs are poised to leap up the national rankings, currently positioned in ninth, by virtue of their third-place team finish in Sunday's Western Open behind Lakehead and Brock. The Ontario Junior Championships (20 years and under) and Women's Open were waged Saturday.
"We are in a strong conference and to place highly against very strong competition will help in that respect," Western head coach Ray Takahashi said in regards to potentially moving up in the rankings.
The highlight of the three meets, which drew varsity and club teams from Ontario, New Brunswick and Montréal, was veteran Kyle Chocorlan's surprising performance during the Western Open. Previously unranked, Chocorlan emerged to strike gold in the 57 kilogram class.
"I just wanted to have a good showing with it being the last tournament before the [Ontario championships]," Chocorlan said. "I was mainly focusing on just not giving up many points."
Keith Bannon and Jeff Sharack claimed silver in the 68 and 72 kilo weight classes respectively, keying the Mustangs' team bronze.
A harbinger of good things to come for Western wrestling came on Saturday, with two provincial champs being crowned. Mitch Dodd, trailing 7-0 in the gold medal match at one time, rallied to a 19-8 victory and the 52 kilo title. Belinda Chou pinned four opponents on her way to the 63 kilo gold. Both wrestlers are first-year kinesiology students who, along with a strong recruiting class, should ensure a competitive Mustang squad for years.
Chocorlan was very impressed with the performance of the young wrestlers. "In the next couple of years this team is going to have a really good solid foundation to work with," he said.
Making the weekend showing even more gratifying is the fact that it was accomplished without the presence of team captain Scott Proctor, who was held out with back ailments and an injured wrist.
"We are hoping he will be ready for the OUA tournament [Feb. 22 in Guelph], but you can never tell with back problems," noted Takahashi. "He leads by example and sometimes I actually have to keep him from working so hard so he won't re-injure himself."
With the Canadian championship at Brock only a little over a month away (March 7), Takahashi feels there is still plenty of room to improve.
"We just have to keep sharp, improve our conditioning and work on technique and strategy," Takahashi said. "Most importantly, we all have to be healthy."