The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program heads to Calgary this weekend for its first Canada West tournament of the season.
The Dinos Invitational runs Saturday at the University of Calgary.
Competing on behalf of the Cascades this fall will be Pravi Dhaliwal, Ashley Chouinard and Devin Purewal.
On the women’s side, Dhaliwal and Chouinard give the Cascades a pair of wrestlers with the pedigree to challenge for conference medals.
Dhaliwal emerged as one of B.C.’s top high school wrestlers over the past couple of years, competing with Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks. In 2014, she was named the outstanding female wrestler at the Upper Fraser Valley championships, and went on to win silver medals in the 60 kilogram weight class at both the B.C. high school championships and the BC Summer Games. In 2015, she was crowned the provincial high school champion in a match that was voted the most exciting gold medal final by tournament officials.
“I chose UFV since I already train a lot here and know the program is great and successful,” Dhaliwal said. “I want to become a junior and senior national champion and go to the Olympic trials one day.”
Chouinard has had success on the national stage – in 2014, competing for the Saskatoon Junior Huskies club program, she won the 65 kg silver medal at the Canadian juvenile wrestling championships in Guelph, Ont. At the junior nationals that same year in Edmonton, she was fifth at 63 kg.
“I saw Pravi wrestle last year at the B.C.’s – she’s got lots of talent, and she’s very spirited,” said Ron Sweeney, who joined the Cascades wrestling program this fall and is working alongside co-coaches Arjan Bhullar and Raj Virdi – both former national team wrestlers – in the role of team manager. “She’s a good athlete, and she trains very hard. But she’s a first-year university athlete, and this is different competition.
“Ashley is also strong . . . She comes with a great reputation in Saskatchewan wrestling circles.”
On the men’s side, Purewal is heading into his second season at UFV, and he excelled on the mat in 2014-15. The graduate of Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary won the gold medal in the men’s 72 kg division at last year’s Dinos Invitational, and he earned silver medals at UFV’s Cascades Classic and at the Canada West championships.
“I had Devin when he was in about Grade 3, coming to our practices,” said Sweeney, a longtime local wrestling coach at Yale Secondary and with the Mid Valley Athletic Club. “I’ve seen him progress from being a young kid, to being a B.C. champion, to the university level.
“He’ll be the one that the young guys will probably be trying to knock off. And he comes from good wrestling background.”
Brad Hildenbrandt (a Canada West silver medalist last season at 90 kg) and Aman Kaler (fourth in the conference at 68 kg), both members of the 2014-15 Cascades, will compete this weekend in Calgary as part of the UFV club team, but are not currently academically eligible to participate on behalf of the varsity.
Sweeney noted that two others – Jasmit Phulka (the reigning Canada West champion at 82 kg) and Aso Palani (the conference silver medalist at 61 kg) – are preparing for the Canadian Olympic trials in December and have elected to take the year off varsity competition in order to focus on training for that event.
The UFV wrestling program will host its second annual Cascades Classic tournament on Jan. 31 at the Envision Athletic Centre. The Canada West championships run Feb. 12-13 at the University of Winnipeg.