Individual gold medals from Jasmit Phulka and Devin Purewal highlighted a solid debut for the University of the Fraser Valley wrestling team at the Dinos Invitational, hosted by the University of Calgary on Saturday.
In the varsity program’s first-ever official Canada West competition, the Cascades finished with 23 points in the aggregate men’s team standings, which left them in fourth place, just one point back of the podium. The Winnipeg Wesmen (51 points), Alberta Golden Bears (44) and Regina Cougars (24) comprised the top three.
UFV co-coach Raj Virdi said his squad was “a little sluggish” for their exhibition matches on Friday, but came prepared for the matches that counted on Saturday.
“The second day we really showed up,” said Virdi, who coaches the Cascades with Arjan Bhullar. “I think everybody wrestled really, really well.”
Phulka was dominant in the 82-kilogram weight class – he surrendered just one point over the course of his three victories, beating Wade Elliott of the Dinos in the final.
“I expect him to be one of the best wrestlers in the CIS, regardless of who he faces,” Virdi said of Phulka. “I expect him to crush his opponents, and he did.”
Purewal, a 2014 grad of Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary, capped his run to the 72 kg crown with an 18-8 win over Grayson Manning of Calgary’s Roc wrestling club in the final.
“I was really proud of Devin – he pushed through a couple of hard matches,” Virdi said. “Being an 18-year-old, coming in and having that much success, it’s pretty good.”
Rohit Thandi (fifth, 57 kg) and Jaskarn Ranu (sixth, 76 kg) also placed for UFV on the men’s side, with Ranu battling through illness to win his first-round match before being forced to withdraw.
In addition, several wrestlers from the Cascades wrestling club – athletes who aren’t currently eligible for CIS competition and thus don’t count towards team points – won individual medals. Manheet Kalhon won gold at 120 kg, Brad Hildenbrant took silver at 100 kg, and Amrit Benning (68 kg) claimed bronze.
Virdi is hopeful that those athletes will be eligible by the second semester, which would clearly bolster the team’s fortunes.
Up next for the Cascades wrestlers is the Wesmen Invitational at the University of Winnipeg on Saturday, Nov. 8.