Missing many of their established stars due to injury, the McMaster men’s wrestling team looked set for a downturn as the OUA Championships got underway Sunday in St. Catharines.
Instead, the Marauders rose to the challenge and defended their silver medal for a second consecutive year, led by a gold-medal-winning performance from rookie Viduran Thanarajah.
The first year Social Sciences major defeated Brock’s Kingston Wong and Algoma’s Brody Collison to win the 54kg weight class and provide the Marauders their lone gold of the tournament, being named as the OUA Rookie of the Year as a result.
In his first season at the helm, McMaster head coach Cleo Ncube received the OUA Men’s Coach of the Year award in recognition of his team’s effort in retaining silver.
The Marauders finished Sunday’s action with a team total of 63 points, beating out the third-placed Guelph Gryphons by eight.
Behind Thanarajah’s gold, McMaster climbed the podium six times on the men’s side, with the trio of Connor Quinton (65kg), Ben Zahra (76kg) and Ameen Aghamirian (120kg) securing silver, and Gurpreet Ghuman (68kg), Peter Shirley (82kg) and Scott MacLellan (100kg) coming away with bronze.
Getting the best of Western’s Lachlan MacDonald and Lakehead’s Steven Powell-Chambers to advance to the divisional final, Quinton was beaten by Brock veteran and former U SPORTS champion Mizam Tamaradze in the 65kg final.
For his part, Zahra cruised to the divisional final at 76kg with a 10-0 win over Mustafa Shah of York before running into the defending U SPORTS champion, Brock’s Tyler Rowe, and losing out in the gold medal match.
Much like his teammates, Aghamirian made quick work of his non-Brock opposition at 120kg, defeating Guelph’s Gabriel Laplante 13-2 before losing out to the Badgers Richard Deschatelets in the final.
Moving up a weight class at the conference championship, Ghuman defeated York’s Nashane Ralph in the round robin and bounced back from a loss to clinch 68kg bronze with a dominant 10-0 win over Queen’s Gael Brad Bergin.
Advancing to the bronze medal match after a win over Michael Tremblay of Queen’s in the round robin, Shirley sealed his podium place with a 13-3 win over Western’s Jackson Browning.
Losing out to the eventual Male Wrestler of the Year Job Reinhart of Guelph in pool competition, MacLellan bounced back with a win over Western’s Kevin Marshall to advance to the bronze medal match at 100kg, where he defeated Algoma’s Stephan Kreyenbuhl 12-2.
On the women’s side, the Marauders finished fifth as a group, on the strength of a pair of bronze medals from the duo of Cassandra Rufenach (48kg) and Jenna Leslie (55kg).
Rebounding from a loss to Brock’s Samantha Romano in pool competition, Rufenach defeated Ally Zhang of Queen’s 10-0 to find the podium.
Leslie similarly recovered from a loss to a Brock wrestler in round robin action to win bronze, handily beating Lakehead’s Sydney Woodhouse 12-1 in the medal match.
All nine of McMaster’s medalists from Sunday gained automatic qualification to the U SPORTS Championships, which will be hosted by Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie on February 23 and 24.
Source: Fraser Caldwell