Wrestling teams start season on high note, gear up for midseason

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western women's wrestling

Jon Purdy

"GRAPPLING" WITH INNER DEMONS, PERHAPS? Western's wrestling teams are back at practice, working toward the ultimate goal of provincial supremacy. We'd make a cheesy pro wrestling reference, but these poor athletes have surely heard that way too much.

Following two podium finishes at last year’s Ontario University Athletics championships, both the men and the women’s wrestling teams are working towards replicating their past success.

“We just want to keep improving with our matches throughout the rest of the year, little by little,” fourth-year wrestler Brett Ferguson said. “We’re just going to keep working hard and practicing.”

So far this season, the team has competed in the McMaster Invitational and the Toronto Open and experienced some success.

Fourth-year wrestler Jeff Werden captured gold at the 54 kg event at McMaster University, while captain Katrina Huszarik defeated teammate Heather Wray to capture gold in the 59 kg final at the University of Toronto.

“It’s awesome to win a tournament like that, but at the same time getting third at another tournament might be just as good as getting first at that tournament. Going into the Toronto Open, I had high hopes and it turned out well,” Huszarik said.

While there is a long way to go until the OUA championships in February, the team has an intense training regimen to get it in top form by then.

“We practice two hours a day, every day from Monday to Friday,” Huszarik said. “Practices usually consist of a warm-up, then we get more into technique or practicing different takedowns. Then, we will get into some different, higher-paced wrestling situations.”

Despite the individual nature of the sport, Ferguson said teamwork is crucial to every wrestler’s success.

“Wrestling is [an] individual [sport] but you rely on your teammates to train with, so we’re pretty close that way. You practice with a variety of people during training sessions and many of us also live together, so we maintain team chemistry that way.”

Teammate Phil Medeiros agreed, adding all of the wrestlers are working towards the same goal.

“I think we have a really good team dynamic,” he said. “Most of the people on the team feel we are here to meet our individual goals, but also our team goals.”

Western men's wrestling

In addition to a rigorous training schedule and strong team chemistry, the wrestling squad also boasts many standout athletes, like Jennifer Nguyen, who competed at the Junior World Wrestling Championships in Beijing, China this summer.

Although Nguyen said that facing competitors from around the globe was a bit of an adjustment, her game plan remained largely the same.

“It was completely different from when I have been competing in university, just because there are so many different countries there,” she said. “But, in general, it’s what we do every single day in practice. It just comes down to wrestling and doing everything you normally do.

“Right now, I’m taking it kind of slow and just coming back from a long season of wrestling,” Nguyen added. “Basically, I would like to do well at OUAs and the [Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships]. I’m not really looking at how far I’m going and how fast I will get there, but my feet are pointed in the right direction.”

Like Nguyen, Werden emphasized the importance of steadily improving throughout the season and said the team is still getting back into the swing of things.

“At the start of the season, we try and focus on getting back in shape, getting matches in and getting some experience,” he said. “January has more of the big tournaments that you want to be focused on as you increase your intensity towards OUAs.”

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