Eight straight and counting for Brock men
A two-year COVID-19 absence couldn’t derail the Brock University men’s wrestling program.
Competing at the University of Alberta last weekend, the men won their eighth straight USPORTS national championship and 21st overall.
Brock went into the national championships ranked No. 1 and didn’t disappoint, winning two gold, three silver, and one bronze medal to finish in first with 65 points. The Badgers, led by USPORTS men’s coach of the year Marty Calder, ended up 14 points clear of runner-up McMaster.
How Brock continues its dynasty is a question Calder has a hard time answering.
“It might be a misconception that winning is about having the best team. We navigate around trying to have our athletes be the best team but using other factors as well. It’s not just being the most talented, but it is being the most prepared and having the team that has the most passion,” he said.
It is not alway the most talented team that prevails.
“Every year when I look at it on paper, I’m not someone who is overly confident but we do the little things like staying healthy which is a big thing,” Calder said. “We have been able to do that and get contributions from every person on our team, not just our stars. You have to do that win a national championship and there are a lot of parts that go into it.
“We are going to keep doing what we are doing, learn as much as we can from what winners do and implement that as much as we can.”
Winning gold medals by technical superiority were Carlos Vargas at 68 kilograms and Bobby Narwal at 72 kilograms.
Silvers medals were captured by Max Budgey (76 kilograms), Jordan Wylie (82 kilograms) and Roger Li (125 kilograms). Gabriel Blanchette mined bronze at 65 kilograms.
Other Brock results included: Mark Summers who was fourth at 90 kilograms; Callum Knox who was fifth at 100 kilograms; Gabriel Sementilli who was sixth at 57 kilograms; and, Cho Sherpa who was sixth at 61 kilograms.
Calder describes Vargas as a superstar.
“No one beat him this year and he wasn’t scored on at the national championships. He had four matches and he teched (won by technical superiority) everybody. He had a great future, he is a hardworking kid and he is a really good athlete. He is as tough as hell.”
The 20-year-old lives in Toronto but was born in Spain to Mexican parents.
He started learning wrestling moves in Mexico when he was five under the guidance of his father, Juan Carlos Vargas, who is a wrestling coach.
“I think now I am a lot more athletic because I started that young.”
His father continues to be a big part of his wresting career, even though he is an assistant coach at York University.
“I saw him at the OUAs (Ontario University Athletics championships) and at USPORTS and he was wearing York colours. It was kind of weird,” he said. “But we talk a lot and he helps me before matches. He and my family are my inspiration.”
Carlos Vargas arrived at Brock in January.
“The room is high-quality wrestling, more than any other university close to me. When I came here and saw everyone wrestling hard and laughing, I knew it had a great ambience.”
His Brock experience has been all that and more.
“I am getting along well with all of my teammates and it is great. Since I have been here, my technique and intensity have improved a lot.”
Vargas had a lot on the line at his first USPORTS championships.
“I have always had a lot of pressure. It was not only winning but all that I did to be at that moment,” he said. “It was moving, not seeing my family, having new friends and teammates. When I won, I felt such relief.”
There was also pressure to continue the team success at Brock.
“When you go to nationals, it is just you. You make your points, you win, you lose whatever. But with the university, you feel the pressure of watching your teammates wrestle. Is he going to win? Is he going to make enough points or get to the final? There is always pressure on the whole team. It feels good when it’s finally over.”
His next goal for his wresting career is to win a Canadian senior title but that will have to wait until he obtains her permanent residency status in Canada.