Wrestling season preview: Hildenbrandt, Dhaliwal lead youthful Cascades squad

Brad Hildenbrandt (far left) and Pravi Dhaliwal (far right) are among the veteran leaders for a relatively youthful Cascades wrestling program in 2016-17.

Brad Hildenbrandt (far left) and Pravi Dhaliwal (far right) are among the veteran leaders for a relatively youthful Cascades wrestling program in 2016-17.

The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program takes a youthful roster into its third Canada West season.

Of the 12 athletes on the Cascades’ men’s and women’s teams, eight are in their first year of eligibility, which means co-head coaches Raj Virdi and Arjan Bhullar have plenty of teaching to do as they embark on their conference schedule this weekend at the Dinos Invitational at the University of Calgary.

“It’ll be different because a lot of our kids are first-years – they’ll have to get used to what university wrestling is like,” Virdi analyzed. “We’re still expecting them to win matches, but it’ll be challenging for them.”

The men’s team has a core of veteran talent led by heavyweight Brad Hildenbrandt (130 kg). The Surrey, B.C. product won a Canada West silver medal and finished fifth at nationals in 2014-15, and Virdi believes he’s got the talent to win a U Sports national title this season.

The other veterans on the men’s team are sophomore Amanveer Kaler (65 kg) and third-year Devin Purewal (72 kg). Virdi said Kaler has “all the technique in the world” and should be in the mix for a Canada West title if he can put it all together. Purewal, a Canada West silver medalist in 2014-15, is focusing on school in the fall semester and will ramp up his competition schedule after Christmas.

The Cascades’ rookies on the men’s side include Amtoj Dhaliwal (82 kg), Kamil Golowko (130 kg), Haseed Javed (61 kg), Husayn Mohammad (54 kg), Alex Johnson (72 kg) and Marko Kolobara (76 kg). Virdi is particularly high on Dhaliwal’s potential: “That’s one of the kids we really believe in the future is going to become a national champion,” he said.

On the women’s side, Pravi Dhaliwal (63 kg) returns for her sophomore season alongside rookies Karla Godinez Gonzalez (55 kg) and Ashley Coupal (51 kg) and redshirt Gurpreet Sengar (63 kg). Dhaliwal is moving up a weight class after competing at 59 kg last season.

“I believe that’s a better fit for her,” Virdi said. “The way she wrestles, I think she’ll do better in a higher weight class. We expect big things from her.”

Virdi also took note of Godinez Gonzalez’s potential: “She’s new, but she’s hungry. She has a lot of potential to become very good in a short amount of time.”

The UFV wrestling program hosts its home tournament, the Cascades Classic, on Jan. 29 at the Envision Athletic Centre. The Canada West championships run Feb. 10-11 at the University of Saskatchewan.

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