BR Celtics Dominate 2024 OFSAA Wrestling

BR Celtics Dominate 2024 OFSAA Wrestling
Posted on 03/08/2024

By Larry Moko

Jubilant chants of ‘We are B-R’ echoed through the cavernous United Soccer Centre at the conclusion of the 2024 OFSAA wrestling championships Wednesday.

It was picture-taking time and the host Bishop Ryan Celtics had just won the girls, boys (tied for first) and overall team point totals during the provincial competition held at Stoney Creek’s indoor sports facility.
Over 1,000 athletes from about 200 schools took part in the two-day event.

“We’re happy for the sweep,” Bishop Ryan coach Sheldon Francis said. “Only two other schools have done it.”
In terms of individual honours, three Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic wrestlers captured gold medals – Joshua Ramon and Ella De Almeida of Bishop Ryan along with Havilah Nwachuku of the St. Mary Crusaders.
Nwachuku took the girls’ 115kg final with a second-round pin.

“It’s my first year in the sport,” Nwachuku said. “I’m very happy and proud of myself for accomplishing this.
“It was very difficult. I was out of breath, and I was going to give up at one point. But I kept going and made it through. It was worth it.”

At the recent city and Golden Horseshoe qualifying tournaments, Nwachuku finished second each time.
“I’m surprised,” she said of the OFSAA victory. “But I did put in the extra training.”

Debra Polak, who coaches both wrestling and girls’ hockey at St. Mary, was thrilled that one of her Crusaders – originally a 10-member team -- came out on top.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “I don’t do the work. They do. They have to follow through and believe in themselves.”

According to Polak, Nwachuku comes out hard and tries to win her matches in under 30 seconds. “She’s has a couple of wins in eight seconds and 17 seconds.”

Polak is herself a former high school wrestler. “I was an OFSAA person so I have a passion for wrestling.”
Competing in the boys’ 77 kg division, Ramon rolled his final opponent several times before making an early pin.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” Ramon said. “All I knew was that I wanted to beat him.”

Ramon, a Grade 12+ student, had been to one previous OFSAA championship and to another as an alternate.
“I got like a 16th place,” he said. “During that year I was the heaviest I’ve been in a while. I was wrestling at 89 kg. Now I’m feeling good at 77 kg.”

Said coach Francis: “He was spectacular.”

Ramon has been wrestling for eight years and is coming off recent gold-medal wins at both the city and GHAC finals.
“I’m so grateful to our coaching staff and all the people who have helped me,” he said. “Sheldon is a person who got me from a very dark time to this point in my life.”

Ramon was the first boy at BR to win OFSAA gold since Giordan Caruso in 2016.
De Almeida took top honours in the girls’ 64 kg weight class.

“It was fun,” said Grade 11 student De Almeida, who had a first-round bye before her four wins. “Last year I got a third.”

De Almeida and her BR training partner, Taylor Engelen, both had won gold the last two years at city and GHAC meets. But this year, in the girls’ 67.5 kg division, Engelen had to settle for an OFSAA silver medal when her opponent broke a tie with two late points for a 3-1 win.

“Both of them are phenomenal wrestlers,” Francis said of the BR duo. “They’re close friends and they’re getting ready for national team trials next week in Ottawa.

“It wasn’t Taylor’s day, but she had a great tournament. Her final match was tight. It was heart-breaking. I’ve been there in her same position. She can turn around and do something about it next week. She’s going to shake it off and show she’s one of the best in the country.”

Engelen won bronze at OFSAA 2023 in 61 kg.

Other top 6 podium finishes by Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic entrants were: Marquis Jones, St. Thomas More, fifth, boys’ 38 kg; Mohammad Alshhadat, More, fourth, boys’ 41 kg; Christian Coccia, Bishop Ryan, fifth, boys’ 44 kg; Anthony Canuto, St. Jean de Brébeuf fifth, boys’ 47.5 kg; Sebastian Lucia, Bishop Ryan, sixth, boys’ 51 kg; Ayden Cook, More, fourth, boys’ 54 kg; Owen Monaghan, More, sixth, boys’ 89 kg; Aiden Nedelko-Payne, Bishop Ryan, fifth, boys’ 130 kg; Jennifer De Mederios, More, fourth, girls’ 95 kg; Deanna Rawn, Bishop Ryan, third, girls’ 115 kg.
Mike Varrasso of the St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves, a veteran coach of 31 years, was presented with the OFSAA Leadership in School Sport Award.

Photos by Richard Andoga

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