Last season, after a three decade drought, the Saskatchewan Huskies men’s wrestling team captured the Canada West banner and the women picked up the silver in Winnipeg, Man.
“It was pretty exciting for us. It had been a long time since we won the Canada West Championship. As a matter of fact, I was an athlete here then,” laughed Shane Bradley, assistant coach of the Huskie’s wrestling team.
“We’d been so close so many times, it was nice that we could put it all together.”
This season, the team had a disappointing finish at the Dino Invitational in September, but it mirrors the slow start the squad had last year.
“We didn’t have a championship team heading in, no one thought we were going to win. But we positioned ourselves in a way where, if we do everything right, we have a shot,” said head coach Daniel Olver, who competed for the Huskies before coaching.
After always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, it was fulfilling to finally see the dots connect for Bradley, who has coached the team through a slew of second and third place finishes.
“We always had strong teams, just last year everybody did their best and they wrestled really well. Some athletes who weren’t at the top of their game had successful matches”.
The team returns a strong veteran core, including Josh Bodnarchuk who won a CIS gold medal in the 57 kg weight class.
“There’s definitely some younger guys here with really promising talent and I’m trying to foster the same goals that previous teammates have helped me improve.”
On the women’s side, Kiera Prior returns after earning CIS Rookie of the Year Honours, and a national silver medal in the 82 kg category.
“To win those awards was shocking to me, I wasn’t expecting it. I’m hoping to use that momentum to keep going and to go after everybody in my weight category. I want to make sure they know I deserve those (awards).”
Many of the veterans on the team have been mentoring the younger athletes on how to be successful as a student athlete. Much of the advice centers around the work life balance, rather than tips inside the squared circle.
“A lot of the senior ones, they step up. Not only do they mentor them on the mat, but in school. If you’re not successful in school, you won’t be successful on the mat,” Olver noted.
The tournaments leading up to the Canada West championships provide valuable experience and competition, but at the end of the day, the goal for the Huskies is to return not one, but two banners this season.
“My goal on paper is to win two team titles, no one else is banking on us to win”, Olver siad.
“If we put everything together and we do the little things right, we can do it”, Bondnarchuk said.
The Huskies next tournament is the Cougar Open in Regina, on Nov. 19.