On Feb. 12 and 13, for the first time in school history, Western Canada’s best university wrestlers met at the Duckworth Centre when the University of Winnipeg (U of W) hosted the 2016 Canada West Wrestling Championship.
This championship determined who will advance to the national competition.
“This is the biggest event in Canada West wrestling. All the different programs compete in different tournaments to qualify for this tournament and successful teams and wrestlers continue to the national championships,” Ian McArton, a faculty and events coordinator at the U of W, says.
The 17-member Canada West conference is the premier university athletic conference in Canada, with member schools stretching from British Columbia to Manitoba.
Six universities competed in the 2016 Canada West Championship – the University of Regina, University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta, University of Fraser Valley and the U of W.
“This is a combination of all training and hard work that athletes put in. Our wrestlers are wrestling from 6:00 in the morning every day… they train mentally with sports psychology, they do nutrition work, they work in the gym. So this is a showcase for their skills and a chance for them to compete,” McArton says.
The U of W Wesmen wrestling programs started in 2011, and this marks the first time since 2006 the Canada West championship has been hosted outside of Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Adrian Bruce, the coach of Wesmen wrestling teams, says the experience of hosting event had its pros and cons.
“It’s very nice to host an event like this, because it really elevates the profile of this sport in our university – a lot of people still don’t know that we have a wrestling program nor do they know the quality of it,” Bruce says.
“But it’s kind of a double-edge sword, because when you host it, therein lies all kinds of responsibilities and duties. It’s not easy competing in the event you’re hosting. It has its own set of challenges with that process.”
Kyle Nguyen, the captain of the men’s Wesmen wrestling team, says that it was a rare chance for the Winnipeg community.
“The U of W doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to see us compete, so for us to host an event of that magnitude successfully is a real accomplishment,” Nguyen says.
“It was a good tournament. Canada West is one of my favourites to compete in. For me, personally, I had a decent turn out, but there is always room for improvement,” Taylor Follensbee, captain of the women’s Wesmen team, adds.
The next competition is the CIS Wrestling Championships at the Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. on Feb. 26.