It is an incredible feeling for varsity athletes to be able to represent their school colours. It is even better when you are able to compete in front of your friends and family.
As is such for the McMaster wrestling team, who closes out the season as the hosts for the Ontario University Athletics Championships on Feb. 11. The Marauders have performed well throughout the 2016/2017 season, with both individual wrestlers and the team finishing on the podium in multiple events.
Heading into the OUA Championships, the men’s team is ranked third in the University Sports top ten rankings behind powerhouses Brock and Alberta, while the women’s team sits ninth after starting the season unranked. Both teams will look to improve on last year’s competition, in which they placed second.
“Brock is the perennial favourite, and for good reason,” head coach Nick Cipriano said. “We’ve been second at the national level for the past two years. For anyone to get close to beating Brock, all the stars need to align.”
Other teams within Ontario will look to make their mark this weekend and look to spoil any homecoming festivities that Marauder athletes may enjoy.
“Within the province, Guelph will be competitive,” Cipriano said. “Same with Lakehead and Western.”
“We’ve been second at the national level for the past two years. For anyone to get close to beating Brock, all the stars need to align.”
Head coach, McMaster wrestling
Hosting the championship at home will have special meaning for fifth-year wrestler and team captain Ahmed Shamiya, who will compete in his final OUA championship in in the 76kg weight class. He is the defending OUA gold medalist and two-time defending Canadian Interuniversity Sports champion in the weight division. A podium finish this weekend will give Shamiya the opportunity to be a three-time U Sports champion.
There is plenty of other talent to look for on the Mac team. Freshman phenom Ben Zahra has enjoyed immediate success this season, having won a gold medal at the Brock University Open on Jan. 14. Third-year Robert Smith has been ranked no. 1 in the 54kg weight class for the year, and should have a great opportunity to make the finals this year.
“There are at least half a dozen wrestlers on the men’s side that I expect to make a big noise in the OUA championships,” Cipriano said. “The same goes for the women’s side; Nicole Roach in particular has been a finalist in the past, and there is no reason she can’t be one again.”
Fifth-year senior Roach has made impressive strides this year, recently winning a silver medal in the 63kg weight class at the Western Open on Jan. 28.
Other wrestlers on the women’s side to look for include fifth-year Monica Wood and second-year Cassandra Rufenach, who both also won silver in their respective weight classes in the most recent wrestling event in Western.
To compete in the U Sports Wrestling Championships at the University of Winnipeg on Feb. 24-26, wrestlers must finish in the top three of their weight class. Cipriano, along with the rest of the team, will rely on their hard work to carry them through, with the added benefit of playing in front of a home crowd.
“We’re looking forward to the championship,” Cipriano said. “The team is looking forward to competing at home in front of their friends and family.”
On a weekend filled with other varsity action, it will be the wrestling mat that will take centre stage.