No hibernation for weary U of A Bears, Pandas wrestlers

Title: No hibernation for weary U of A Bears, Pandas wrestlers
Date: January 5, 2013
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My final piece was a report on the Golden Bear Invitational Wrestling Tournament. This article did not appear in print as there is no Sunday print edition of the Edmonton Journal.

EDMONTON – There’s no rest for opponents of the weary.At least, that’s the way the University of Alberta Bears and Pandas wrestling teams have altered the phrase.

Returning Friday morning after an eight-day training camp in Phoenix, Ariz., the Bears and Pandas beat the University of Calgary in a dual meet on Friday afternoon before taking home the title in their own Golden Bear Invitational on Saturday. The Bears won both the men’s and women’s sides.

The victories continue to solidify Alberta as one of the country’s premier wrestling factories, with their Canadian Interuniversity Sport No. 2 ranking perhaps underselling their potential.

After all, it’s not often you see a team ragged from travel and competition win a tournament and still focus only on areas for improvement. But head coach Own Dawkins has his charges focused on the endgame for the wrestling season — the Canada West Championship and perhaps the CIS championship as well.

“The goal is to win both. The Canada West championship, men’s and women’s title,” said Dawkins. “That’s all that matters. Win those.”

Alberta could have been forgiven if they had come up a little short on Saturday, given the circumstances. The fact that the team only talked of ways to get better from here on out speaks volumes about the way Dawkins’ message has been received.

“I feel like I could have wrestled a little bit better. There’s always room for improvement,” said Jamie Herrington, who won the women’s bracket at 72 kilograms, a weight class above where she normally competes. “Anyway, this stuff’s not important. It’s all about nationals.”

Wrestlers going up weight classes was something Dawkins chose to do as an additional challenge for his team. The results don’t matter quite as much from this tournament, since it is open to schools and wrestling clubs alike, and thus not a Canada West event.

“We changed a lot of things around,” said Dawkins. “We moved some people up, just to get a bit of a challenge.”

One of the people who moved up was assistant coach Aso Palani, who made the jump to the 57kg weight class. Palani is a national team competitor who was an alternate for Team Canada in the 2012 Olympics. He also happened to win his bracket, along with fellow assistant Roger Alves at 72kg, but he was far more concerned with the accomplishment of one of his pupils.

“That’s a big win for Asselstine,” said Palano, referring to Mike Asselstine, who won the 61kg weight class.

“It’s been a couple years since I won a tournament, and this year I’ve won all four in Canada. It’s been pretty nice,” said Asselstine. “It’s been a different year. Having Aso in the room is big.”

And what conversation with an Alberta wrestler would be complete without talking about the end of the season?

“These tournaments are nice to win, but when it comes down to it we need to win when it counts,” said Asselstine. “I definitely think we have a chance.”

Dawkins is pleased with his team’s early success. Since returning to Alberta as head coach in 2009, where he was previously a student, wrestler, and assistant coach, he has methodically built the program up to its current level.

“We’re a very young team, so the future looks really, really good,” said Dawkins.


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