The Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship was a mixed bag for the UNB wrestling team at the Currie Center two weeks ago.
Three V-Reds wrestlers withdrew on Day 1 due to injuries which quickly ended any hope for a team title.
Brock University swept both the men’s and women’s team titles, but head coach Don Ryan said if UNB didn’t have so many injuries so early in the tournament, the men’s team could have possibly finished second in the rankings.
Despite their team’s woes, the V-Reds did manage to claim two medals at the tournament: a bronze for rookie Allyssa Cleaves and gold for fifth-year veteran Shawn Daye-Finley.
“I’m happy [with] the athletes who won [a] medal,” said Ryan. “We came in here with higher expectations, and the results at the end of the day weren’t what we expected.”
Ryan also said the tournament is very emotional.
“The highs are high and the lows are low,” he said. “Some of the athletes who win aren’t expected to win, and some of the athletes who are expected to win don’t do as well, but that’s why we compete in the sport.”
Daye-Finley concluded his final year of CIS competition on a high note, winning a gold medal in the 76 kilo division against Connor Hodgins from the University of Calgary.
“I came out here to win, nothing else seemed acceptable,” said Daye-Finley. “I probably could have wrestled a better final, but I played it safe and just did what I had to do to get the job done.”
The Dartmouth native is in his first year of a Master’s degree in sport and exercise science. He’s wrestled for UNB for six years, and plans to remain with the team as he trains to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Daye-Finley credits his success to his family, coach Ryan and his pre-tournament ritual.
“Every tournament I have in New Brunswick, I make a point of getting a hotel room and treating it just like any other tournament on the road and my family helps to provide that,” he said. “I definitely look to my mother. She was a single mother growing up and paid for me to go on all those trips before I was fortunate enough to have funding from the university.”
But Daye-Finley wasn’t the only V-Red to medal at the championships.
Allyssa Cleaves is a rising star on the women’s team, winning bronze in the 51 kilo division in her first year of CIS competition. The second-year civil engineering student transferred from Brock last year, but didn’t intend to wrestle at UNB.
“After having that much time off [from wrestling], I just started to miss it again and I was ready to get back on the mat,” said Cleaves. “Still, coming back into it I wasn’t sure how competitive I wanted to go . . . but as the season went on and I was continuing to go along with the training and everything, and I decided I did want to do CIS and Junior Nationals.”
She credits her success at the tournament to her decision to wrestle in a higher weight category.
“I normally cut to 48 kilos, but we decided I would go 51 . . . I was intimidated about that because I normally wrestle 48 so it was a little bit out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But just the fact I wasn’t cutting weight, I was stronger and healthy and I could wrestle the way I normally do at any practice.”
The tournament was one of the first major university competitions to operate under the new wrestling rules, which changed the scoring system as well as the length of rounds. Instead of three two-minute rounds per match, there are now two three-minute rounds.
Ryan said that the new rules affected the outcome of the tournament for many athletes.
“[With the new rules], your conditioning has to be a lot better . . . We saw this over the weekend: near the end of each round, people lost matches because the fitness wasn’t there,” said Ryan. “And you have to actually wrestle, whereas before the rules allowed for a lot of stalling and going to clinches.”
Ryan added the new rules also make the sport more spectator-friendly.
“We’re seeing higher scores because people are actually wrestling a lot more, so it’s a lot more exciting. Before 1-0 you could win a match, or a 1-1 tie, and now there’s like 18-16 scores.”
Ryan also said it’s a lot more fan-friendly and easier to understand, making it a lot more exciting.
Daye-Finley encourages anyone thinking about joining the UNB team to give it a shot.
“[Wrestling is] the one sport that I’ve ever played that what you put into it is what you get out of it,” said Daye-Finley. “There are many other sports where that’s not the case, sometimes the scout doesn’t see you, and if you don’t get that break you don’t make it. So I’d like to encourage just anyone to try it, and to try to have fun doing it.”
In addition to Cleaves and Daye-Finley, the final results of the tournament saw UNB athlete Amanda Eng place 7th in the 48 kg division, Brittany Dillman place 6th in the 55kg division, Mario Tran place 6th in the 54 kg division, David Gillis place 6th in the 57 kg division, Vincent Cormier place 7th in the 61 kg division, Erik Joy place 6th in the 65 kg division, Jordan Townsend place 8th in the 68 kg division, Sean Isnor place 7th in the 72 kg division, Grayson St. Laurent place 4th in the 82 kg division, Alex Thomas place 4th in the 90 kg division, and CJ Thoms place 7th in the 130 kg division.
The Black Bears Wrestling Club will be heading to Edmonton for Junior and Senior Nationals March 20 – 23.