Print Edition: February 4, 2015
On the last weekend of January, the men’s wrestling team hosted their first tournament in the history of the program. The tournament, dubbed the Cascades Classic, was also the first time that the Cascades were asked to defend their new number-one national ranking — and they succeeded, winning seven medals, including three gold. Earning 51 points, they beat out the Winnipeg Wesmen, with 43 points, and the Saskatchewan Huskies, with 40.
“It was just proof of their hard work,” said Arjan Bhullar, who coaches the men’s wrestling team with Raj Virdi. “The kids have been working hard all year. Our goal is to win; the ranking doesn’t mean anything.”
One student who has stood out to Bhullar is Manheet Kahlon. The freshman has become a rising superstar, and his success is a big reason that the Cascades have earned the title of best wrestling team in the country.
Kahlon, who fights in the 120 kg division, made waves when he defeated University of Winnipeg’s Kyle Nguyen in mid-January. Nguyen is the defending national silver medalist, yet Kahlon was able to squeak out a 7-5 win. The two were matched up once again in their first contest of the Cascades Classic.
In terms of the men’s physical size, the match between Kahlon and Nguyen was comparable to matches between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant in the ‘70s. However, Kahlon’s lead grew larger and larger over the course of the six-minute match. When the final buzzer went, Kahlon was victorious once again, this time 9-2. The third-year Nguyen had been defeated twice by a freshman.
“I performed good,” said Kahlon after the match. “I’m a first-year student beating people that medalled last year. I should be able to get gold at nationals.”
Not only is Kahlon’s consistency against the best wrestlers big for him individually, it’s “huge” for the program, according to Bhullar.
“We are looking at the team and how we stack up against the other teams in the Canada West. In two weeks [at the Canada West playoffs] it might even come down to that match, as we look at how we match up with them,” he explained. “As you can see with a young athlete like [Kahlon] … the more he wrestles, the more confidence he is getting with these match-ups.”
The Cascades are up next in two weeks when they travel to Alberta to fight in the Canada West playoffs for a spot at nationals. It’s a tournament that Coach Bhullar is positive that the team is mentally and physically prepared for.
“They earned that [number-one] ranking,” he says. “It was something we told them to expect all year. If you put in the work, do what we tell you to do, then that’s where we should be.
“It’s validation that we as coaches have put together the right program for them, and they as athletes have followed that program to a T.”