Coming off the most successful season in program history, the University of the Fraser Valley wrestling teams have reloaded for the 2018-19 campaign.
Cascades head coach Raj Virdi has signed 10 athletes – eight male, two female – to bolster a program which claimed four individual medals at the U Sports national championships and collected a number of major awards at the Canada West conference and U Sports levels in 2017-18.
Abbotsford’s Sunny Benning is one of those signings. The 2018 W.J. Mouat Secondary grad is the second member of the Benning family to suit up for the Cascades wrestling program – his older brother Amrit was part of the men’s team during the 2014-15 season.
Benning represented Canada at the 2017 Pan Am Championships in Argentina, finishing fourth in the cadet 85kg class. His 2018 campaign featured a provincial high school title on behalf of the Mouat Hawks, and a silver medal at juvenile nationals.
He’s been around our team for a while now,” Virdi noted. “I’ve been watching him wrestle since he was in Grade 6, and we’ve built a good relationship. He’s going to be tough to beat next year.”
Benning, who will pursue a criminology degree at UFV, said his older brother gave a strong endorsement to the Cascades wrestling program, making his decision to sign fairly straightforward.
“I know most of the other guys who have signed this year, and I’ve known Virdi from previous wrestling tournaments,” he explained. “It seemed like a nice environment.”
He’ll be competing in the men’s 90-kilogram division in Canada West competition.
Virdi’s recruiting class is highlighted by four wrestlers who have represented Canada in international competition. On the women’s side, Calista Espinosa (Richmond) and Hannah Tuplin (Crofton) join a Cascades squad which stars the U Sports silver medal-winning Godinez Gonzalez sisters, Karla and Ana.
On the men’s side, former Team Canada grapplers Jason Bains (Surrey) and Benning (Abbotsford) lead a freshman crop which will look to come alongside a strong returning group featuring U Sports gold medalists Brad Hildenbrandt and Parker McBride.
“We wanted to bring more numbers onto campus, and this is one of the best recruiting classes we’ve had so far,” Virdi said.