Huskies men’s wrestling team has room to improve

By in Sports & Health

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s wrestling team has been busy throughout the first half of their campaign, competing in events at Simon Fraser University, the University of Regina, the University of Calgary and on their home turf.

Wrestling Head Coach Daniel Olver has been pleased with what he’s seen from his group so far but acknowledges there is still a lot of room for improvement.

“We have had a decent start to the season thus far, but as a whole, there are many areas [that] we need to work on in order to meet our individual and team goals for the year,” Olver said, in an email to the Sheaf.

The team also recently took a trip south of the border to compete in the Jimmie Open at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. Olver says the trip provided challenges for the team, as American wrestlers compete under folkstyle rules — while in Canada, freestyle is the style of choice.

“The Jimmie Open is always a breath of fresh air. The athletes we compete against are brand new to us, so that is positive in terms of wrestling different styles. The men were forced out of their comfort [zones], because they had to learn the American style of wrestling, which can have its challenges,” Olver said.

While the results weren’t optimal, Olver notes that the trip was a learning experience for the team.

“This was positive, from a coaching perspective, because the message was to minimize mistakes and get to our offence if we wanted to be successful wrestling the Americans,” Olver said.

Returning to the Huskies for his fourth year with the program is Josh Bodnarchuk, an education student. Bodnarchuk will enter the 2017-18 season chasing his fourth straight gold medal at the U Sports National Championships, which would set a new program record in U of S history for most national titles by a wrestler.

The men’s wrestling team also features a fresh crop of young talent. Hunter Lee is a first-year education student who has been an immediate contributor for the Huskies, winning the Clansmen event at SFU.

Olver speaks to the significance of the win for a rookie wrestler.

“Hunter [is] a rookie [who has] stepped up so far. He just recently won a senior-level competition in Vancouver. We have not had a male win that [event] in a while, and for him to do that as a rookie is impressive,” Olver said.

Another freshman standout is Julian Klinger, a first-year student with the Edwards School of Business, who competed for Saskatchewan at the 2017 Canada Summer Games. Olver says he has been impressed with Klinger’s performance in his first year with the Huskies.

“What I have liked about [Klinger] so far this season is that he really wants to go out there and win. It could be the simplest of things — like  [a] warmup, game or … match. He is all in. That’s definitely something you want to see as a coach,” Olver said.

Klinger, who is fresh off a second-place finish in the 82-kilogram event at the Cougar Invitational, hopes to improve as he takes on the challenge at the U Sports level.

“University-level wrestling is way more competitive than high school. Guys are just a lot quicker and their technique is more sound. The amount of competitions we’ve had is also something I’m not used to. I like it, though, because you definitely learn what works and what doesn’t on the mats,” Klinger said, in online correspondence with the Sheaf.

Although Klinger is still adapting to the U Sports level, he’s pleased with how the season has gone so far.

“My first season wrestling with the Huskies has been a great experience,” Klinger said. “I have a lot of talented and competitive teammates that help me improve every practice.”

The Huskies will resume their game schedule on Jan. 12, when they travel to Edmonton to compete in the Golden Bear Open at the University of Alberta.

Matthew Johnson

Graphic: Lesia Karlash / Graphics Editor