The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program has reloaded for the 2016-17 season, signing nine promising recruits.
The Cascades men’s wrestling team will have seven new grapplers among its ranks. University of Winnipeg transfer Mitchell Berenz, a two-time Canada West champion, lends some veteran presence to the group, and he’ll be joined by six Fraser Valley high school grads: Amtoj Dhaliwal and Alex Johnson of Abbotsford; Hassib Javeed and Husayn Mohammad of Surrey; Kamil Golowko of Langley; and Marko Kolobara of Maple Ridge.
On the women’s side, Surrey’s Karla Godinez Gonzalez and Gurpreet Sengar of Abbotsford will lend their talents to the Cascades.
“We’re going to have a lot younger group,” noted Raj Virdi, who serves as co-head coach of the Cascades wrestling program alongside Arjan Bhullar. “We’re glad our team is growing, and I believe we’ll have success throughout the year. Myself and Arjan are going to work really hard with the kids, and hopefully we’ll get some good results at the Canada West and CIS championships. We’re looking forward to working with these athletes for the next four or five years and try to help them win a national title.”
68 kg men’s division
Arrowhead High School (Hartland, Wis.)
Berenz brings some impressive bona fides to the Cascades, having won the Canada West gold medal in the 65 kg weight class in both 2014 and 2015. He also had a highly decorated high school career in Wisconsin.
“He’s done well his last couple years in CIS, and he’s going to be a very good addition to the team,” Virdi said of Berenz. “He’s a good kid, and we expect big things from him in the coming year.”
“I chose to come to UFV because of the athletic talent and achievements of its coaching staff,” said Berenz, who will study business at UFV. “They have the experience and knowledge of high-level competition and what it takes to succeed. They aren’t just building national champions – their goals are building world champions and having success not only at a national level but beyond that. While attending UFV I hope to gain as much experience as possible from the coaches and not only win an individual national title but a team title as well.”
84 kg men’s division
Abbotsford Traditional Secondary (Abbotsford, B.C.)
Dhaliwal was a member of the Abby Traditional Titans senior boys wrestling squad which won the team title at the 2015 B.C. high school championships and followed up with a silver medal in 2016. He’s a two-time individual silver medalist at the B.C. high school meet, and finished fourth at the cadet national championships in 2014. Dhaliwal also won gold medals in back-to-back years (2014 and 2015) at the prestigious Western Canada Age Class and SFU War on the Floor tournaments.
“Amtoj is good,” Virdi observed. “His family is very serious about the sport, and actually moved from the Island to the Valley because there’s a lot more wrestling over here. He won provincials last year, and he’s a young guy who’ll wrestle for a very long time.”
“I chose to attend UFV because of the excellent coaching staff and the amount of one-on-one time they give you both inside the wrestling room and out,” Dhaliwal said. “My goals and dreams are to successfully finish my bachelor’s degree as well as become junior national champion.”
130 kg men’s division
Langley Secondary (Langley, B.C.)
Golowko made steady progress during his high school years – he finished sixth at the B.C. high school championships in 2014, third in 2015, and second in 2016. The highlight of the heavyweight’s year to date was winning a silver medal in the juvenile men’s 130 kg division at the cadet/juvenile national championships in Calgary in April. He’s also a two-time medalist at the Western Canada Age Class event, taking gold in 2015 and silver in 2016.
“He’s a good kid,” Virdi said of Golowoko. “He’s young, he’s got a little bit to learn, but we’ve got some big guys he can train with and we think he has a lot of potential.”
“I chose UFV because I believe that I can excel there the most, both academically and athletically,” Golowko said. “My goals at UFV are to achieve a bachelor’s degree in criminology and also to complete for Team Canada in wrestling at the Olympics.”
61 kg men’s division
Guildford Park Secondary (Surrey, B.C.)
Javed’s decorated high school career included a pair of individual medals (silver and bronze) at the B.C. high school championships. He’ll study criminology at UFV.
“I’ve known Haseeb for a while, from provincial camps,” Virdi said. “He works hard – harder than most kids I’ve seen. The only thing that held him back last year was, he broke his hand and that kept him out of provincials and nationals. He’ll be a really good addition.”
“My goal is to be the best I can be, whether on the mat or in the classroom,” Javed said. “I wish to learn and grow and develop life skills that will help me through my journey. I am truly applicative for this opportunity to wrestle for such a great school. I wish to get as much as I can out of it and one day to give back to those who have helped me.”
57 kg men’s division
Guildford Park Secondary (Surrey, B.C.)
Mohammad’s strong senior year at Guildford Park Secondary was highlighted by a gold medal at the Alberni Invitational, a silver medal at the Upper Fraser Valley championships, and a fourth-place finish at provincials.
“He works really hard,” Virdi said. “He went to provincials and lost to a couple guys who made the finals. He hasn’t wrestled as long as some of the others, and he’ll be a good kid to work with. I’ve seen him at some camps and tournaments, and I think he’ll be really good.”
“I would like to thank all my coaches from Guildford Park for the time and effort they spent on me to become the wrestler and man I am today,” said Mohammad, who will pursue a criminology degree at UFV. “I look forward to a new and fresh start. I chose the Cascades because they give me the chance to further my education while competing as a wrestler. My dreams and goals with the Cascades are to be a better wrestler each and every day in hopes of being a national champion one day.”
72 kg men’s division
W.J. Mouat Secondary (Abbotsford, B.C.)
Johnson was a silver medalist this season at the Upper Fraser Valley zone championship to qualify for provincials. He also posted a fifth-place finish at the Abby Invitational, and a sixth-place result at the Alberni Invitational. He’ll study business at UFV.
“I really like the coaches and it’s close to home,” Johnson said, reflecting on his decision to sign with the Cascades. “I want to get my degree and be a CIS champion.”
Virdi noted that Johnson was recommended to him by Mouat coach Jim Mitchell, a member of Wrestling Canada’s Hall of Fame and a huge supporter of the Cascades wrestling program.
“I’ve seen him wrestle a couple times, and he’s got a lot of potential,” Virdi said of Johnson.
76 kg men’s division
Maple Ridge Secondary (Maple Ridge, B.C.)
Kolobara climbed the podium at four tournaments during the high school season, picking up bronze medals at the SFU War on the Floor, Western Canada Age Class, Alberni Invitational, and Upper Fraser Valley zone championships. The three-time provincial championship qualifier will enrol in business at UFV.
“He’s wrestled for a long time, and been really involved in the sport,” Virdi said. “When he gets to compete at a higher level and absorbs some more coaching, I think he has a lot of potential.”
“I’m proud to be part of the UFV Cascades wrestling program and I’m very excited to start my next season with the team,” Kolobara said. “UFV has a great program with great coaches, and I think I will be able to excel with the help of my coaches and teammates. I hope to eventually be able to help lead the team to a CIS national championship.”
Karla Godinez Gonzalez
54 kg women’s division
Earl Marriott Secondary (Surrey, B.C.)
Gonzalez won gold at the Surrey city championships and the Fraser Valley championships, before capping her 2016 high school season with a bronze medal at provincials. She’ll pursue a kinesiology degree at UFV.
“We saw her wrestle at provincials, and we were very impressed,” Virdi said. “She’s going to excel – she loves wrestling, she loves working hard, and she’s tough. She’s only been wrestling a couple years, and I know she’s going to absorb all the information we give her.”
“My goals are to learn as much as possible, help others, and succeed as a student-athlete at UFV,” Gonzalez said. “I dream to travel and compete internationally.”
64 kg women’s division
W.J. Mouat Secondary (Abbotsford, B.C.)
Sengar’s senior season with the W.J. Mouat Hawks was highlighted by a silver medal at the Miri Piri Tournament and a fourth-place finish at the Western Canada Age Class tourney.
“Gurpreet is relatively new to wrestling, but she’s very keen to learn,” Virdi said. “I think she’ll have success in university and beyond. She’s one of those girls who really loves the sport.”
“I chose UFV because it’s local – a lot of my friends go there – and has a really good wrestling team,” Sengar said. “My goal is to make it to the conference championships and win a medal, and advance to the nationals. I’m looking forward to improving in the sport.”