Francis Carter named U Sports’s Most Outstanding Wrestler
The Concordia Stingers brought home nine medals from the U Sports national wrestling championship in Sault Ste-Marie, Ont., during the two-day tournament on Feb. 23 and 24.
The Stingers finished second in the team results, scoring 91 points. This was a significant improvement for the squad, which finished in fifth at last year’s nationals. The tournament was marked by gritty performances, but perhaps none as exciting as Francis Carter, who took home a gold medal in the 68-kilogram division.
Prior to his gold medal match, Carter only gave up two points in three matches. This was his third trip to the U Sports national wrestling championship. In 2016, Carter finished in fifth place. In 2017, he finished in fourth.
“I personally wanted to focus on relaxing mentally so that I could develop my tactical thinking during my matches,” Carter said about his preparation for this year’s nationals. “After [the past] results, there were no stressful expectations on me, which let me focus better on how I wanted to wrestle.”
In the round robin, Carter defeated Bryce Davis from the Algoma Thunderbirds 10-0, Nathen Schmidt of the Regina Cougars 10-0, and Miles Kent from the University of Alberta Golden Bears 13-2. In the gold medal match, Carter wrestled against the Brock Badgers’s Matt Jagas, the defending title holder. The result was a 3-2 nail-biter in favour of Carter.
“I walked in knowing that my opponent had the pressure since he was wrestling to keep the title that he won last year. That gave me confidence because I had no expectations, and was instead concentrating on how I could wrestle,” Carter said. “I think that the way expectations affected the results of this tournament is something very useful to learn from.”
Carter went up 3-0 in the match, but Jagas managed to come back to bring it within one. With Jagas coming on strong, Carter grabbed Jagas’s leg to run out the clock. The leg attack allowed Carter to hold on for the first gold medal of his U Sports career.
This win drew praise from Stingers wrestling head coach Victor Zilberman.
“It was unexpected,” Zilberman said. “He’s a tough academic athlete in a very difficult program [psychology]. He set his goals and was mentally ready. He came out to every match and had some incredible performances.” Zilberman added that the gold medal match was “the toughest match of the tournament.”
Carter was named the U Sports’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
On the women’s side, Jade Dufour, Laurence Beauregard and Amanda Savard all took home bronze medals.
Beauregard didn’t come to her first U Sports nationals with any expectations.
“This year, for me, was more about learning,” Beauregard said. “I wanted to go out there and fight hard and smart. [During the bronze medal match], I was losing at a certain point. I decided to take a couple of deep breaths and re-centre my focus on having quality attacks. This worked for me.”
Dufour knew the bronze medal match was do or die. “I was either going to be on the podium or in the stands. I did not want to be in the stands,” she said.
Vincent De Marinis and Jordan Steen also won gold medals. Samuel Barmish, Alex Moore, Frédérick Choquette and rookie Guseyn Ruslanzada all added bronze medals to the Stingers’s tally. This was the third gold medal in both De Marinis and Steen’s careers, with Steen winning in 2013 and 2016, and De Marinis winning in 2016 and 2017.
Even after three-straight title wins at the national championship, De Marinis said he doesn’t change his preparation His routine stays the same for every fight, no matter the opponent.
“I was proud of my individual performance. It’s my last year as a Stinger, so it meant a lot to me to finish my university career strong and get that last gold,” De Marinis said. “Overall, it was a great experience. I really enjoyed travelling with the team. This was the Stingers’s best team performance in my five years competing for the university.”
Zilberman was happy with the team’s performance, but disappointed that they fell short of the team title. The Brock Badgers won the national championship for the fifth year in a row, scoring 162 points, compared to the Stingers’s 91. The Stingers sent 15 wrestlers to compete in the tournament—its biggest-ever national championship squad. The Badgers sent 19 wrestlers.
“We had a great team. On a different day, in a different year, we would have won, but because we’re competing against schools like Brock who send so many athletes, that made the difference,” Zilberman said.
He added that, over the years, he has been trying to extend his recruiting. Many of Concordia’s wrestlers were groomed at the Montreal Wrestling Club, which is also run by Zilberman.
The Stingers wrestling team is already training for the Canadian Championship in Montreal from March 16 to 18. Zilberman is excited for his core group of wrestlers to compete, as well as showcase new recruits who will be making their Stingers debut, including Aly Barghout, a product of Zilberman’s Montreal Wrestling Club and former junior national champion.
De Marinis, Steen, Moore and assistant coach Rob Moore will all be representing Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Australia from April 4 to 15.
Main photo courtesy of U Sports.