The Marauders earn 13 medals and the top spot at the McMaster invitational in a dominant start to their season
The McMaster wrestling team took on their first season meet of the year at the McMaster University invitational held on Oct. 30. Hosted at the university’s own Burridge gymnasium, the Marauders came away with multiple medals across different weight classes from both the men and women’s divisions. Overall, the team pulled away with a first place victory, scoring 85 points to edge past the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas who managed 84 points in the contest.
Following their home opening dual meet against Alberta on Oct. 29, the Marauders entered their regular season high off of last year’s silver medal performances at the Ontario University Athletic Championships. Featuring rosters packed with youth and talent, both the men and women teams dominated the McMaster invitational with outstanding matches on the mats.
On the women’s side, athletes Ligaya Stinellis, Serena Di Benedetto and Macy Malysiak secured gold medals for the 50kg, 53kg and 56kg events respectively. A three-time competitor for Team Canada and a new recruit for the team this year, Di Benedetto won by technical fall over Taylor Mcpherson for an impressive start to the season. Stinellis and Malysiak, who landed podium placements at their individual events during last year’s championships, also delivered strong performances for the Marauders.
Individual success at the meet aside, it was very important for members, such as Malysiak, to take advantage of the regular season for the team’s growth, development and playoff preparation. They managed to do just that, making the most of the meet.
“Like our coaches say, everybody wants to win, but you sometimes want to put yourself in uncomfortable positions and situations so that you can learn from them. All these tournaments are just a learning block before the big ones,” said Malysiak.
Rounding out the other medalists, Betty Huang, Similoluwa Jayeoba and Tehani Blais captured three more silver medals for the women’s team. Vanessa Fonrose also added a bronze medal for her performance in the 76kg matches.
Leading the charge for the men’s team, Gregor McNeil took home the team’s lone gold, winning by injury default against Mahir Sabat from York University in the first place 61kg match. Francesco Fortino, Irman Kang and Jonathan Vecchio also earned three silver medals for the maroon and grey team. Finally, both Gianluca Fortino and Howard Moffatt ended with third place finishes in the 65kg and 90kg matches respectively.
Along with Di Benedetto, McNeil is also a first year recruit for the McMaster wrestling program with past experience on Team Canada. Of the 13 total medals won by the Marauders, six were won by athletes in their debut season with the wrestling program. Such achievements speak volumes to the team’s future potential.
“I honestly am just consistently excited because this is the best recruitment class that we’ve had for a long time . . . I do think that we are achieving more than we have in the past and so I think that this is going to continue on in the long run,” said Stinellis.
The Marauders will soon travel to Toronto, taking the mats at the Toronto Metropolitan University invitational on Nov. 13. Later in the winter, they will take on the OUA wrestling championships on Feb. 11 and the U Sports championship held from Feb. 24 to Feb. 26.
With seven more meets still on their schedule, both teams will have plenty of time to prepare for the postseason title run in 2023.
In light of the recent suspension of many major tournaments such as the U Sports volleyball championships, we can reflect on one of the successful tournaments that took place from Feb. 21 to 22.
At the 2020 U Sports wrestling championship, we saw a few familiar faces break onto the podium. From the men’s team, the trio of Connor Quinton in the 68 kg weight class, Ben Zahra in the 76 kg category and Ameen Aghamirian in the 82 kg class each found themselves wearing silver medals when it was all said and done. Francesco Fortino in the 57 kg class got his hands on a bronze medal. This was considered an all-around success for the McMaster team and marks Zahra’s second year in a row getting silver at the highly competitive tournament.
Zahra, one of the three silver medal recipients and athlete of the week, shared his thoughts on the team's performance at the U-Sports championship. He was happy with how the team finished.
“I thought everyone’s performance at U Sports was very impressive,” said Zahra. “We had a lot of close wins, and it seemed like whenever a teammate of mine was a close match, they managed to come out on top.”
Although Zahra was happy for the success of the team, he wishes he had placed higher. Going into the tournament, he had kept the gold in his sights. Even though he fell just short of his goal, medaling in this major tournament is a big success—and Zahra knows it.
“Medaling at the U Sports Championships gave me a lot of confidence in my training and reaffirmed all the hard work I put in throughout the season,” Zahra said. “Although it wasn’t the medal I wanted, I am still proud of the effort and tenacity I brought into the competition and look forward to bringing those aspects of my wrestling into the Canadian Championships.”
A silver medal is a great accomplishment for any school team. To have been able to bring home three, like our men’s team did, is a significant success. U Sports silver medalist Quinton also spoke about the value that the team’s performance could have had in preparation for the Canadian Championships.
“I think U Sports taught our team a lot of valuable lessons that we’ve been able to look back on over the last week and it’ll be a great learning experience for all of us moving forward. The team is looking really good heading into the next part of our season, and I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are ready to take the next step to the international level after making some tweaks and preparing hard for our upcoming tournaments,” said Quinton.
Quinton spoke glowingly about how the wrestling program has not only allowed him to become a better wrestler but also greatly contributed to his growth as a person.
“As I come to the end of my third year, I think I have matured a lot in terms of my wrestling as well as my character,” said Quinton. “I think being a part of the McMaster program has been extremely helpful in my development. I’ve learned so many techniques and tactics that I’ve been able to use in my wrestling that have been key to my progress. The team and coaches have also put lots of focus on growing off the mats and have taught us to strive to be great people all the time.”
Unfortunately, due to the spread of the coronavirus, Wrestling Canada Lutte has postponed the U17 and U19 Canadian Championships, as well as the Junior and Senior Canadian Championships. This was a big event that wrestlers from around the country were looking to compete in. However, decisions such as this are necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus.