Young Gaels team wrestles to eleventh

Gael Shannon Mullins (right) knocked her opponent unconscious on Saturday.
Gael Shannon Mullins (right) knocked her opponent unconscious on Saturday.
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Queen’s wrestling rookies got a chance to strut their stuff at home this weekend at the annual Queen’s Open Wrestling Tournament.

One of the largest open tournaments of the wrestling season, the event featured more than 120 wrestlers from all of the standard CIS/OUA weight categories in both the men’s (52-130 kg) and women’s (48-80 kg) brackets.

Women’s captain Shannon Mullins came away with the Gaels’ only medal of the event, placing third in the 59 kg class. Though the team garnered only the one medal, assistant coach Frankie Gwynne said he was encouraged by many promising performances from first year wrestlers.

In the men’s 65 kg division, Chris Witiw had two narrow defeats despite delivering competitive performances in both matches.

The likely 85 kg representative for the Gaels in the upcoming OUA Championships, rookie Jason Howes, also wrestled well in his first tournament, and Gwynne said he believes Howes will be a strong contributor to the wrestling team both now and in the future.

In the 57 kg division, first-year wrestler Nate French pulled out a phenomenal comeback victory, pinning his opponent from Western in the second round after being on the defensive for most of the first.

The highlight of the tournament was undoubtedly the gold-medal contest in the 72 kg men’s division. Spectators were fortunate enough to enjoy an intense match between two Olympic-calibre athletes in Brock University’s Evan MacDonald and Cleo Ncube. MacDonald, who represented Canada two years ago in Athens, eventually emerged victorious, but both he and Ncube hope to be on the squad in the next summer Olympics.

In addition to being a fairly inexperienced group, the Gaels have also been plagued by both the injury bug and general illnesses all season, and were even forced to withdraw from the Brock tournament because they were unable to field a healthy team. Despite the setbacks, the Gwynne said he was encouraged by the performances this weekend. Gwynne added that he hopes the experience gained this weekend and in the upcoming tournament at Western will result in a more confident and successful showing at the February OUA Championships, which take place in Thunder Bay on Feb. 18.

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