Queen’s grapples nationals

Gaels’ men’s and women’s wrestling teams compete at OUA championship in London, with bronze-medal performance earning wrestler a trip to nationals

Queen’s wrestler Joel Smith (left) wrestles Guelph’s Scott Young during the OUA championships in London on Feb. 20.
Queen’s wrestler Joel Smith (left) wrestles Guelph’s Scott Young during the OUA championships in London on Feb. 20.
57-kg wrestler Matt Di Staulo (right) won bronze at the OUA championships in London, earning him a trip to Calgary for the CIS nationals competition
57-kg wrestler Matt Di Staulo (right) won bronze at the OUA championships in London, earning him a trip to Calgary for the CIS nationals competition

The wrestling team concluded their season at the OUA championships on Feb. 20 at the University of Western Ontario.

The only Gael to qualify for the CIS championships in Calgary this weekend was rookie Matt Di Staulo, who placed third in the 57-kg weight class.

The Brock Badgers and the Lakehead Thunderwolves tied for first in the men’s team standings, with the Badgers claiming sole possession of first in women’s standings. Out of seven teams, Queen’s placed sixth in the women’s division and seventh in the men’s.

Gaels wrestler Katie Strang led the women’s team with a fourth-place finish in her event, losing 3-1 in the bronze medal game against Guelph and narrowly missing qualifying for a spot at the national championships.

Head coach Jamie Macari said the Gaels are in a rebuilding phase.

“Our team is young and the [top teams] are mature,” he said. “The standings can be deceptive because they don’t take into account the generation of athletes our team is working with.”

Macari, a former championship wrestler at Brock, said the team’s biggest challenge this year was maintaining the commitment of its athletes.

“The determining factor is going to be commitment,” he said. “I was one of the most flexible coaches there was, I think too flexible at times.”

Macari said the team didn’t have too much confidence entering the competition.

“We kind of realized that we weren’t in contention for the title and we kind of accepted that,” he said. “Being last place is fine. Accepting being last place is not fine.”

Queen’s entered the OUAs missing two key male wrestlers with injuries to middleweight Feodor Snagovsky and heavyweight Taylor Wood. The Gaels only submitted athletes to four of nine weight classes on the men’s side and five out of nine on the women’s.

Teams are awarded points for achieving high standings in class, leaving Queen’s unable to tally points in several weight classes.

Macari said the team started with a list of 70 interested athletes in September and was down six for each team by the end of the season. He said the sport is difficult for beginners.

“To believe that you’re capable of becoming a fighter is a scary thing because the moment you believe it, you hold yourself to that standard,” he said. “When you lose a race, the other person was faster. If you lose a combative sport, you were beaten. It’s so personal. To get up after you get beat down is an incredibly difficult thing.” The OUA championships were one of 11 tournaments this season that included the Queen’s Open. Macari said the team received unsatisfactory support when hosting the biggest varsity wrestling tournament in Eastern Canada.

“If this program is going to die, a good way to do it is to over-capacitate a gym for ten hours and give next to no seating,” he said. “They put us in the practice gym ... This team won’t exist if our tournament continues to go like that.”

Macari said his young athletes need to commit more next year.

“We have a really solid core right now and since they’re young they’re willing to work hard. It’s only a matter of time,” he said. “I want to move up a placement every year until we’re number one, and then redefine what number one is.”

Di Staulo, who’s in Calgary for the nationals, said coming to the Gaels this year after gaining extensive experience wrestling at Kingston’s Regiopolis High School was difficult to adjust to at first because of the small roster.

“It’s a little bit frustrating,” he said. “You go to practice and you don’t have someone to practice with in your weight class, so you don’t always benefit.”

Di Staulo suffered a neck injury during training in October but was back by second semester. He said the support he received helped him recuperate.

“I was never separated from the team,” he said. “I was at a point where I’d didn’t think I’d be coming back this season, but the support I got from my team and my friends and family brought me back in.” Di Staulo will compete in the 57-kg event at the CIS wrestling championships, which take place today and tomorrow at the University of Calgary.

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