NCAA crowns wrestling champs
Denis Morris wrestler Leela Benjamin is on a serious roll.
The Grade 11 student won two matches by pin Wednesday to capture the 83-plus kilogram division at the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association championships at Denis Morris.
Heading into the tournament, the 16-year-old St. Catharines resident has won pretty much every high school tournament she has entered this season and one of her victories came over the reigning OFSAA champion.
“She has been wrestling really well, cleaning up her skills and progressing quite nicely,” Denis Morris coach Ryan Weicker said.
He feels Benjamin is more mature as an athlete this season.
“She knows what skills she is good at and she is honing in and focusing in on what she is good at and minimizing her weaknesses.”
The reigning Zone 3 and 4 and Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association champion has a simple explanation for her excellent season to date.
“I go to practice as much as I can and I have the mentality that I am always trying to get better, but I am not super upset if I am not successful,” she said.
She carries that attitude in all facets of her life.
“I am like that in everything,” she said. “In school, I try to succeed with my marks and I am always trying to do better than I did before.”
In her third year of high school wrestling, Benjamin is hoping to improve on her seventh-place result at last year’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships,
“This year, I am trying to get higher and maybe place in the top three,” she said.
Last year’s appearance at OFSAA will help her this time around.
“I have the experience now,” Benjamin said. “I know how to do everything and how everything is set up .”
This wrestling season has been anything but a cakewalk for the reigning 72-kilogram zone and SOSSA boys wrestling champion.
“It has been a lot harder this year than most years and the competition is a lot harder than it was before,” Blessed Trinity’s Steve Seljan said. “People are training every day, all year round and everyone is chasing that OFSAA medal.”
The Grade 12 student is himself chasing that elusive medal and he is motivated by his teammates.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates, I couldn’t do it by myself,” he said. “It’s all your buddies picking you up when you fall down.”
The 17-year-old placed in the top 10 in his first trip to OFSAA last year and BT coach Megan Schweitzer is hoping he can crack the top six this time around.
“He is really aggressive, he never gives up and he’s very determined when he is on the mat,” she said. “And he is confident in what he is going to do when he is out there.”
Seljan agrees confidence is a big part of his wrestling personality.
“A lot of it is belief in yourself,” he said. “If you don’t think you can win, then a lot of times you won’t. In the back of your mind, you have to have that thought that you can win the match even if it is someone good you are wrestling against.”
In addition to wrestling, Seljan trains in Jiu-Jitsu and he has found it has benefitted his wrestling career.
“I’ve been doing it since I was young and in a lot of my takedowns, that feeling transfers over the wrestling,” he said.
Blessed Trinity won the team title at Wednesday’s NCAA meet followed by Denis Morris, Saint Michael and Saint Paul.
All the teams will be back in action Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Zone 3 and 4 meet at Blessed Trinity.
Following are top five individual results from Wednesday’s NCAA wrestling meet:
47.5 kilograms: 1. Ella Muraca, Blessed Trinity; 2. Sarah Vandervalk, Denis Morris.
51 kilograms: 1. Carmen Garcia, Blessed Trinity; 2. Sinisa Golden, Denis Morris; 3. Olympia Myers, Blessed Trinity.
57.5 kilograms: 1. Shyann Herechuk, Blessed Trinity; 2. Taylor McNeill, Blessed Trinity.
64 kilograms: 1. Olivia Hendriks, Blessed Trinity; 2. Stefanie Francis, Blessed Trinity.
67.5 kilograms: 1. Rebecca Hendriks, Blessed Trinity; 2. Mikayla Custers, Denis Morris.
72 kilograms: 1. Hannah Lyons, Denis Morris; 2. Colby Patterson, Blessed Trinity.
77 kilograms: 1. Steph Evtodi, Saint Michael; 2. Kayla Litscko, Blessed Trinity.
83-plus kilograms: 1. Leela Benjamin, Denis Morris; 2. Lily Carter, Saint Michael.
41 kilograms: 1. Jack Reynolds, Blessed Trinity.
44 kilograms: 1. Jett Mann, Blessed Trinity.
51 kilograms: 1. Anthony Franciosa, Blessed Trinity; 2. Carl Lebumfacil, Blessed Trinity.
54 kilograms: 1. Qasim Khan, Saint Michael; 2. Henry Brunning, Saint Michael; 3. Josh Pompelli, Blessed Trinity.
57.5 kilograms: 1. Josh Rimando, Saint Paul; 2. Max Diprose, Denis Morris; 3. Royce Crown, Saint Michael; 4. Jake Hansen, Denis Morris.
61 kilograms: 1. Noah Murdaca, Blessed Trinity; 2. Hatcher Penney, Blessed Trinity; 3. Michael Huber, Blessed Trinity.
67.5 kilograms: 1. James Cousineau, Saint Michael; 2. Dean Donato, Blessed Trinity.
72 kilograms: 1. Steve Seljan, Blessed Trinity; 2. Ryan Periera, Blessed Trinity; 3. Carlos vivasPosad, Saint Michael; 4. Noah Smith, Blessed Trinity.
77 kilograms: 1. Christian Bradley, Denis Morris; 2. Lucas Iamarino, Saint Paul; 3. Riley McEwan, Blessed Trinity; 4. Hunter Oakley, Blessed Trinity.
83 kilograms: 1. Andrew Bonaldo, Blessed Trinity; 2. Carlos Calderon, Saint Paul; 3. Tommy Heddon, Denis Morris; 4. Nick Davidson, Denis Morris.
89 kilograms: 1. Alex Zambakkid, Blessed Trinity.
95 kilograms: 1. Rob Shuert, Blessed Trinity; 2. Bronsom Heddon, Denis Morris; 3. Kareem Ali, Denis Morris.
95-plus kilograms: 1. William Bradley, Denis Morris; 2. Ty Antal, Saint Michael; 3. Sursajan Thiara, Denis Morris.