Wrestling team enters 2023 with perfect record
McMaster wins four straight meets in preparation for their upcoming playoff stretch
The McMaster University wrestling team remains undefeated after consecutive team victories at four meets to open their season. Displaying the deep depth of talent across their roster, the Marauders picked up 16 gold medals to rank nationally as the third and sixth best men and women’s teams respectively.
At the McMaster Invitational in November, their first meet of the year, the Marauders placed first overall. Combining for 13 medals and 85 points, both the men and women’s teams put forward dominant efforts to defend home territory and started the year off strong.
The team went on to top their meets at the Toronto Metropolitan University Invitational and the York Open, both of which took place in November. Of their 22 medals from both events, 10 came from members of this year’s recruitment class, who have quickly impressed thus far with their ability to compete with university talent.
First year sensation Gregor McNeil earned the title of U Sports men’s wrestling athlete of the week on Nov. 16 following a three match sweep at TMU. In the 61kg finals, McNeil earned the win 10 to zero against Brock veteran Garette Saunders, a former U Sports silver medalist in the 54kg and 57kg events.
A similar standout on the women’s side, rookie Serena Di Benedetto collected three gold medals in her matches at McMaster, TMU and York. Having gone undefeated at these invitationals, Di Bennedetto was awarded the U Sports women’s wrestling athlete of the week on Nov. 23.
In their last event of 2022, the team also competed at the Hamilton Wrestling Club for the Ontario Senior Open at Brock University. Wrestling at Canada Games Park, the Marauders were outstanding, finishing 18 points above the silver medaling London-Western WC in a dazzling collective performance.
“Although wrestling is an individual sport, there’s also a really big team aspect because you have to keep each other accountable . . . I think our team is just extremely strong this year, better than any team we’ve had previous,” said Di Bennedetto.
Following their showing at the Ontario Senior Open, the maroon and grey team continued their stretch of appearances inside the U Sports power rankings. The men’s team is currently placed third with 40 points behind the Alberta Golden Bears and Brock Badgers. The women’s team is ranked sixth in the country with 26 points.
“All the other athletes are very inviting. That’s the main [reason] why I chose this school over the other ones. The family that they have going on is really good . . . Just this first year’s been fun so far,” said Mahil.
Individually, Di Bennedetto, McNeil and Mahil are ranked first in the women’s 53kg and men’s 61kg and 125kg weight classes respectively. Other notable Marauders include third place ranking athletes Macy Malysiak (59kg), Similoluwa Jayeoba (72kg), Howard Moffatt (90kg) and Omogbai Asekomhe (100kg).
Up next, the team will travel to St. Catharines to compete at the Brock Invitational on Jan. 14. The Marauders will then take the mats at the Guelph Open on Jan. 22 before finishing the campaign in London for the Junior Provincials and the Western Open on Jan. 28 and 29.