Wrestling squad geared up for provincials

Women's side strong, men must wrestle to their potential

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Coming off a successful meet in early February, Western’s wrestlers have their sights set on the Ontario University Athletics championships this weekend. Both the men’s and women’s squads proved their strength two weekends ago with strong performances at the Western Open.

The women’s team placed third overall with 38 points. Terri McNutt, wrestling for the affiliated London-Western club, placed first in the 61-kilogram weight category. Mustang standouts Stephanie Szmiett and Gillian McCallum placed second in the 48-kilogram and 63-kilogram, respectively.

Jessica Fitzgerald, who placed fourth in the 67-kilogram class, discussed the team’s future goals.

“I think we need to focus on the stuff we’re good at,” she said. “[We need to] go in and [not] try anything crazy.”

The equally prepared men placed fourth overall with 26 points. Contributing to the success was a standout performance by team captain Phil Medeiros, who placed third in the 57-kilogram. Also noteworthy was Jeff Werden, who finished fourth in the 54-kilogram.

Medeiros is proud of his team’s growth this season.

“I think we’ve really come along as a team,” he said. “We’ve all improved along the way, and I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

The key to the men’s success this weekend will be a veteran presence for a team lacking the women’s depth.

Despite the men’s possible vulnerability, Mustangs head coach Ray Takahashi believes both teams will succeed at the OUAs.

“Both our men and women have had some good results,” he said. “We have 10 weight classes for men and eight for women, and we have a chance to qualify in all the weight classes.”

Medeiros feels the men’s team can go far if it works to its full ability.

“If we wrestle to our potential and we all go out with the mentality that we can beat anyone, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Takahashi hopes his teams avoid injuries; he says a healthy squad can make or break their chances.

“We don’t want to risk any chance of injury, which is a big issue in wrestling,” he said. “If we stay healthy and keep a positive attitude, I think we’ll be fine.”

Takahashi was pleased with both squads at the Western Open and thought the event showed their potential.

“I think it was a good tune-up for the OUAs,” he said. “We had some tough matches which could have gone either way, so I think we had a pretty good showing.

“On the female side, I think the likelihood of winning the OUA championship is pretty good,” he said.

Expectations are high for the women’s squad, but they relish the opportunity to be the team to beat. Superstar Fitzgerald is up for the challenge.

“It would be great going into [nationals] knowing that we were the best in Ontario,” she said.

"with files from Malcolm Aboud

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