Thunderdome Ready to Roar With CIS Wrestling’s Best

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THUNDER BAY, ON – The University of Calgary women and University of Regina men are ranked first in the country heading into this weekend’s CIS wrestling championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. The two-day national meet returns to Lakehead University for the first time since 2002. The preliminary rounds get under way at 10 a.m. on Friday while the classification matches (11 a.m.), bronze-medal bouts (12:30 p.m.) and championship finals (2 p.m.) are set for Saturday at the LU Fieldhouse.

New team champions will be crowned on Saturday as Simon Fraser, which now competes in the NCAA, swept the CIS banners a year ago when the event was held in Calgary.

In the women’s competition, the top-ranked Dinos, who finished only two points back of Simon Fraser in 2010, are coming off a close four-point win over second-seeded Alberta at the Canada West championships held earlier this month in Saskatoon. With a triumph this week, Calgary would tie Simon Fraser for most national titles in history (6) since women’s wrestling was added to the CIS program in 1999.

The Dinos have two female wrestlers seeded No. 1 in their weight class going into the national meet including four-time CIS gold medalist Gen Haley at 55 kilograms and Erica Wiebe, who won gold in 2009 and silver in 2010 at 72 kg. Teammate Jessy Seida is ranked second at 63 kg.

Haley, a fifth-year business student from Campbell’s Bay, Que., could make CIS wrestling history this week as she is looking to become the first woman to claim individual gold in five consecutive seasons. The 22-year-old senior moved up to 55 kg this year after being crowned CIS champion at 51 kg each of her first four university campaigns.

Haley, who was named the CIS outstanding wrestler in 2010 and CIS rookie of the year in 2007, is coming off an impressive showing at the Canada West championships where she was named female MVP after conceding only one point in three matches on her way to the 55 kg title.

Only one woman has won five CIS gold medals in the past but her feat was accomplished over a six-year period. Former US Olympian Ali Bernard from New Ulm, Minn., captured four straight titles as a member of the Regina Cougars from 2005 to 2008 and a fifth one with the Alberta Pandas a year ago.

Other top-seeded wrestlers going into the CIS tournament include Brock teammates Jasmine Mian (48 kg) and Diana Ford (51 kg), UNB’s Samantha Stewart (59 kg), Concordia’s Nikita Chicoine (63 kg) and Guelph’s Alison Leslie (67 kg).

Following Calgary (50 points) and Alberta (37) in the pre-championship team rankings are No. 3 Brock (35), No. 4 Western Ontario (31), as well as Concordia (28) and host Lakehead (28), who are tied for fifth.

Lakehead Women Profile

Lakehead’s strongest medal hopefuls for female wrestlers are Nicole Plummer (82 kg) and Aislynn Torfason (59 kg). Coming off a gold medal in the OUA’s this year, Plummer has previously captured a CIS silver medal, and has also won gold at the junior Pan-Am games in the 72 kg division. Torfason placed 4th in her division at the CIS tournament last year.

Rounding out the women’s roster for Lakehead is Jessica Bershatsky (48kg), Alexi Kreps (51 kg) and Jes Smith (55kg) and Karleah Bonk (63kg).

On the men’s side, Regina (65 points) enters the meet ranked ahead of UNB (59), Concordia (49), Saskatchewan (43) and Guelph (37). The host Thunderwolves are seventh with 24 points.

The Cougars, who won the Canada West title with a comfortable 12-point cushion over No. 4 Saskatchewan, finished third at last year’s CIS championships only one point behind UNB but a full 18 back of Simon Fraser, which ran away with the banner.

Regina has only one wrestler, 2010 CIS silver medalist Connor Malloy (76 kg), seeded No. 1 going into the weekend, but has five more ranked second in their weight category including Gilbert Musonza (54 kg), Kirk Ackerman (61 kg), Cory Horsbourgh (65 kg), John Leudvoy (82 kg) and Jimmy Levesque (130 kg).

The Regina men have not captured the CIS banner since back-to-back triumphs – the only ones in team history – in 1997 and 1998.

Second-seeded UNB has no less than three athletes ranked No. 1 including Vince Cormier (61 kg), Shawn Daye Finley (68 kg) and Ben Sayah (72 kg). Cormier, a former CIS rookie of the year (2008), was crowned at 57 kg in 2008 and 2009 before taking bronze at 61 kg a year ago.

Other top-seeded male wrestlers include Western teammates Steven Takahashi (54 kg) and Ilya Abelev (65 kg), Saskatchewan’s Daniel Olver (82 kg), Guelph’s Korey Jarvis (90 kg), as well as Concordia teammates David Tremblay (57 kg) and David Zilberman (130 kg).

Tremblay is defending champion at 57 kg and was named CIS male wrestler of the year in 2009 after he prevailed at 61 kg. Zilberman, a 2008 Olympian who finished 14th in the 96 kg freestyle competition at the Beijing Games, was the CIS rookie of the year back in 2004 and already has four CIS medals at 130 kg to his credit including gold in 2004 and 2006, silver in 2005 and bronze in 2009.

Lakehead Men Profile

Lakehead’s top medal hopefuls on the men’s side include Gaston Tardif (57kg) and Colten Woznow (90kg). Gaston is coming off a OUA gold medal performance this year and has previously won silver (’09) and bronze (’10) medals at the CIS tournament. Woznow captured a bronze medal at the recent OUA tournament, as did LU’s Trevor Steffler in the heavyweight (90-130 kg) division.

Thunder Bay native Jason Bresele (68 kg) won gold at the OUA’s and will challenge for a medal this weekend.

Other male Thunderwolves in action this weekend include Dustin Helwig (54 kg).

NOTE: While no female wrestler has ever won five CIS gold medals in five years, two men – both former Brock Badgers – have accomplished the exploit in the past. Ryan Weicker did so from 2001 to 2005, and Jamie Macari matched his feat two years later after being crowned each season from 2003 to 2007.

CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE

Friday, Feb. 25

10:00 Preliminaries Round 1

13:00 Preliminaries Round 2

15:30 Preliminaries Round 3

Saturday, Feb. 26

11:00 Classification matches 5th-8th place (live webcast)

12:30 Bronze-medal matches (live webcast)

14:00 Championship finals (live webcast)

Webcast can be viewed on SSN- www.ssncanada.ca/games

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