Hurricanes win B.C. boys wrestling title

The provincial title that the Rick Hansen Hurricanes boys wrestling team won on Saturday confirmed the old adage that there's strength in numbers.

Jasmit Phulka (in red) spearheaded Hansen’s team title

Jasmit Phulka (in red) spearheaded Hansen’s team title

The provincial title that the Rick Hansen Hurricanes boys wrestling team won on Saturday confirmed the old adage that there’s strength in numbers.Individually, the Hurricanes placed just one wrestler – senior standout Jasmit Phulka – on the top step of the podium at high school provincials, which were held at Abbotsford’s Ag-Rec Centre. It was a testament to Hansen’s depth that they were still able to cruise to the aggregate title, out-pointing Alberni District Secondary 67-58. “People always think wrestling is an individual sport, right?” Phulka mused afterward. “But if your team wins the championship, it’s even better, because you know everyone worked together and did it.”The Hurricanes had seven wrestlers advance at least as far as the semifinals. Phulka’s cousin Jobanjit won silver at 74 kg, while Maneet Klair (48 kg), Ranjot Sandher (60 kg) and Ravneet Sandhu (110 kg) took bronze. Fourth-place finishers Manvir Gill (78 kg) and Gulraj Binning (110 kg) also picked up pivotal points for Hansen. “We had a lot of contenders, but unfortunately they didn’t make it all they way,” Hurricanes head coach Sucha Mann said. “But they gave us enough points to win the championship.”Phulka, the Hurricanes’ headliner, completed a season where he didn’t allow a single point during high school competition. He pinned Esquimalt’s Dan Lebreton in the 78 kg final.”The whole year I hadn’t given up a point, so every match I knew guys were just coming in doing anything to try to score,” he said with a grin. “So I just took my time. “Pretty much every match, I wasn’t sweating. I was fine. I just waited for them to tire out, and then I took my shot.”THREE-PEATS FOR GILL, DHINSAThe Hurricanes’ success was only the beginning of a banner day for Abbotsford wrestlers. Manny Gill of Abby Collegiate and Sunny Dhinsa of W.J. Mouat turned in two of the more dominant performances, winning gold at 70 kg and 130 kg, respectively. Both athletes wrapped up a third consecutive high school title in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion. Gill pinned Sunny Sahota of Tamanwis 21 seconds into the first round, while Dhinsa needed just 39 seconds to get the pin against Aron Mann of Enver Creek.Gill, a Grade 11 grappler, was very familiar with Sahota – they frequently train together. “I thought it was going to be tougher,” he said. “It’s awesome (to win). It’s a really good feeling.”Dhinsa, a hulking heavyweight in his senior year at Mouat, said the high school title is the foundation to what he hopes will be a big summer.”It’s a matter of placing on the international stage – that’s where my goals are,” he said. “I’ve got junior and senior nationals coming up, and that’ll decide where I’m going – Pan Ams, or maybe World Championships.”LIONS ROAR AT B.C.’sThe Yale Lions had a huge day, coming away with three gold medals and a silver. On the girls’ side, Serena Kind (60 kg) and Zandri Botha (69 kg) both won their divisions, while Brendan Seppala (gold, 57 kg) and Matt Dignan (silver, 51 kg) also climbed the podium. Kind’s match against Lisa Brise of Smithers was a true barn-burner. After splitting the first two rounds, Brise had a 1-0 lead in the late stages of the third, but Kind scored a late point and hung on for the win. (In a tied round, the last wrestler to score is the victor).Kind’s victory was all the more impressive considering she aggravated an existing knee injury at the end of the second round. The pain was so severe that her father Al had to carry her off the mat at the end of the match.”Adrenaline must have kicked in,” the Yale senior said with a smile. “During the match, pain doesn’t bother you. It’s just gone.”Botha finished off Daley Forbes of North Peace Secondary with a quick pin, but afterwards she had kind words for her opponent.”The plan was to not let her gain control, because we’re equally matched in technique and strength,” said Botha, a Grade 11 student. “I really enjoy wrestling against her, because I like a challenge.”Seppala won an all-Abbotsford final against MEI’s Aman Kaler. It was the rubber match of an epic rivalry – Kaler won at the Western Age Class event in Kamloops, and Seppala won at the Upper Fraser Valleys in Maple Ridge. The Grade 11 athlete’s win is especially sweet in light of the fact it’s his last crack at the B.C.’s. He’s moving with his family to Alberta this summer.”It feels so great,” Seppala said with a grin. “The strategy was to make no mistakes – to force him to move and then counter him.”BENNING WINS FIRST B.C. CROWNAmrit Benning’s victory in the 48 kg division signaled the arrival of yet another wrestling prodigy in Abbotsford.Benning, a Grade 9 student at Mouat, already owns a provincial silver medal, and he beat Alberni District’s Jordan Wagner in the final this year to upgrade to gold.”I just wanted to win really badly, because I finished second last year,” Benning said. “I’ve been practicing really hard and my coaches have been putting in a lot of time with me, so it was a really important win.”BEST OF THE RESTBenning’s Mouat teammates Melissa Lokombo (silver, 75 kg), Austin Batra (bronze, 70 kg) and Amrit Sund (bronze, 54 kg) also climbed the podium at B.C.’s.Mennonite Educational Institute had a pair of silver medallists in Kaler (57 kg) and Dave Sharma (41 kg).