Brad Hildenbrandt has grappled his way to the finals at the U SPORTS wrestling championships at the University of Winnipeg, with a chance to give the University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program its first-ever individual gold medal at nationals.
The sophomore from Surrey, B.C. went a perfect 3-0 on Friday to finish atop his men’s 120 kg pool and advance to Saturday’s title match, where he’ll face Kyle Bonk-Dann of the Western Mustangs. The match is set for 2:30 p.m. Central time (12:30 p.m. Pacific), and will be webcast at sportscanada.tv.
Hildenbrandt, the Canada West champ, will at least match the Cascades’ best-ever finish at U SPORTS nationals – Manheet Kahlon won a silver medal at 120 kg in 2015 – but silver isn’t the colour he’s dreaming of.
“Brad had some tough matches, but he pulled through,” UFV co-head coach Raj Virdi said. “He’s got to keep the same intensity he had throughout the whole tournament, try to limit his mistakes. Just keep doing what he’s been doing the whole year.”
Karla Godinez Gonzalez, a Canada West bronze medalist and the conference’s rookie of the year, authored “the biggest upset of the tournament,” in Virdi’s words, edging Jade Dufour of the Concordia Stingers 5-4 in the women’s 51 kg division. Dufour won a bronze medal at the 2016 Junior World Championships, but Godinez Gonzalez got the better of her on Friday.
Unfortunately for the UFV rookie, the result didn’t get her into a medal match on Saturday. She finished in a three-way tie atop her pool with Dufour and Amber Wiebe of the Regina Cougars – they each posted 2-1 records, but Dufour advanced to the gold medal match and Wiebe to the bronze match because they’d each notched a win via pin, thus earning more classification points. Coming out on the short end of the tiebreaker sends Godinez Gonzalez into the fifth-sixth placing match against Jessica Bershatsky of the Lakehead Thunderwolves, but her big win nevertheless created quite a sensation.
“That was pretty cool to watch,” Virdi marveled. “I’ve never seen that before – someone who’s gotten such a high placing (Dufour), and a freshman came and beat her. Every coach who watched it congratulated her.”
The Cascades’ two other entrants at nationals, Ashley Coupal (women’s 48 kg) and Amtoj Dhaliwal (men’s 82 kg), both came up empty in the win column on Day 1. Coupal will face Christine Grafe of the Western Mustangs in the fifth-sixth match, and Dhaliwal will face another Western opponent, Kevin Marshall, for seventh place on Saturday.
“It’s their first time being here, and nerves kind of got them,” Virdi said. “But that happens to every single freshman, really.”