The Mustang wrestlers were winners on and off the mats at the 2020 Ontario University Athletics championships this past weekend.
Among the highlights, the Mustangs troupe picked up seven medals, a team silver medal for women and three major awards.
The women's wresting squad has been dynamite all season long, as shown by their second-place team finish.
Top competitors in the women’s troupe included Madison Parks and Jennifer Nwamadi, who grabbed gold medals in their respective events.
In the women’s 51 kg division, Parks had no problem defeating the competition and took the category quite handily. For her outstanding performance at the championships, she won the Outstanding Female Wrestler award.
Parks has been impressive this year, not only has she excelled in the university circuit but was designated as the Olympic alternate for Canada in the women’s 50 kg division. She will surely be one to watch heading into the U Sports championship.
Second-year athlete Nwamadi, who won gold in the women’s 72 kg division, started her wrestling career less than two years ago. Totally inexperienced when she joined Western University’s team in September 2018, she has climbed the ranks at an unprecedented pace.
“She never wrestled before last September,” said Mustangs head coach Scott Proctor. “With her commitment to hard work and training this year, in just her second year of wrestling she won the OUA, that is pretty remarkable.”
Nwamadi has a natural talent for wrestling, but also thrives outside the world of sport.
“She is the ideal example of a student athlete,” said Proctor. “She is an Academic All-Canadian, won the community service award for volunteering in the community and won the OUA.”
When she isn’t training or in class, Nwamadi spends her time volunteering at organizations such as Frontier College, the Boys and Girls Club and Western's Friends of Doctors Without Borders, to name a few.
For her outstanding commitment to the community, Nwamadi was awarded with the Female Student Athlete Community Service Award at the championships.
In another outstanding display of versatility, first-year athlete Paige Baynham picked up a silver medal in the women’s 67 kg event. Baynham is a multi-sport athlete and competed for the Mustangs varsity tennis team in the fall before joining wrestling.
Her individual medal in the women’s 67 kg division marks her third OUA silver this school year, having attained team silver with both the women’s tennis and wrestling teams.
Hannah VanderSlaght picked up another medal for the women in the 48 kg division, she finished in third.
In final team standings, the Mustang women were second overall with a total of 51 points.
To add to their victories, Proctor was named OUA Women's Coach of the Year for his fundamental role in the program.
On the men’s side, Hassan Al-Hayawi took silver in the men’s 65 kg division and secured his spot at the U Sports championships.
Other highlights included bronze medal winners Anthony Parker in the men’s 120 kg and decorated veteran Brayden Ambo in the men’s 82 kg.
Ambo, who was a U Sports bronze medalist in 2019, was weathered with injury coming into the OUA championships. Highly determined, Ambo intends to return to full health in time for the U Sports championships to defend his title.
As of now, the Mustangs have secured representation for seven athletes at the U Sports championships.
Athletes who are medal winners at OUAs become automatic qualifiers for the U Sports championships. With results rolling in from other conferences, this number has a chance of increasing to include other top competitors in the coming weeks.
Regardless, the team will be preparing mentally and physically to assure the athletes hit peak performance in coming weeks.
“They don’t just hand out the medals based on rankings, so anything is possible,” said Proctor. “We are hoping that when they get there, the athletes perform to the best of their ability, if they do that, the placements will take care of themselves”
The 2020 U Sports championships will be held at Brock University on Feb. 21 to 22.