The University of the Fraser Valley men’s wrestling team lived up to its advance billing at home, winning the Cascades Classic on Sunday at the Envision Athletic Centre.
The Cascades men, who sit No. 1 in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national rankings, combined for seven individual medals – including three gold – en route to the aggregate title at the first-ever Canada West tournament to be held at UFV.
The Cascades finished with 51 points to outdistance the Winnipeg Wesmen (43 points) and the Saskatchewan Huskies (40), highlighted by gold medals from Aso Palani (61 kg), Chanmit Phulka (100 kg) and Manheet Kalhon (130 kg).
Aman Kaler (65 kg), Devin Purewal (72 kg) and Brad Hildenbrandt (90 kg) battled their way to silver medals, while Amrit Benning persevered through a knee injury to claim bronze at 68 kg.
“It was time-consuming, but it was well worth it since we won,” said Raj Virdi, who co-coaches the Cascades with Arjan Bhullar, reflecting on staging the Cascades’ first home tourney.
“As a coach, it’s a great feeling, especially when your athletes wrestle really well. We lost some close matches that could have gone either way, but as a team, we wrestled very well.”
On the women’s side, the NCAA Div. 2 Simon Fraser Clan won in decisive fashion, racking up 43 points, well ahead of Winnipeg (19 points) and the Alberta Pandas (18). The Cascades ended up in sixth place with three points, and Shae Corwin registered the top finish for the women’s team with a fifth-place result at 51 kg.
Palani said he and his teammates savoured the opportunity to compete at home.
“It was great,” he said. “We did really well as a team, and it was good to perform in front of our fans. It was actually fun.”
Wrestling season culminates this month with the Canada West championships Feb. 13-14 at the University of Calgary, and the CIS championships hosted by the University of Alberta Feb. 27-28.
“I believe that we have the ability to win a championship banner, both in Canada West and CIS,” Virdi said.