University of the Fraser Valley wrestler Brad Hildenbrandt is one step closer to fulfilling his Olympic dream, after emerging victorious at the Canadian Wrestling Trials earlier this month in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Hildenbrandt, a fifth-year Cascade from Surrey, won the men’s heavyweight (130 kg) Greco-Roman division at the trials, earning the right to represent Canada at the Pan-Am Olympic Qualification Tournament in Ottawa in March. A top-two finish there, and Hildenbrandt will be nominated to Team Canada for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I don’t really actually train for Greco, so it’s quite ironic I made that team,” Hildenbrandt said with a chuckle, noting that his training is focused on freestyle wrestling. “I’m feeling really good. Right now, I’m trying to wrap my head around training. There’s not a lot locally for Greco, so I may have to do some travelling in the U.S. to find training partners.”
Hildenbrandt, a bronze medalist in the Greco-Roman heavyweight division at the senior national championships last March, defeated Joshua Schug of the EWC Bears 11-5 in his opening match at the trials, then swept reigning Greco national champ Charles Thoms of Black Bears WC in the best-of-three finals. The UFV wrestler won round 1 by a 4-1 score, and took round 2 via pin to clinch the title.
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“I just focused on what I knew how to do,” Hildenbrandt explained. “I’m not a great actual thrower, so I just focused on staying in position. And I found that using my cardio and athleticism to beat opponents really worked.”
Hildenbrandt also competed in the 125 kg freestyle event at the trials, but was eliminated in the quarter-finals by longtime rival Sean Molle of Dinos Wrestling Club. Molle earned a 6-3 decision.
Hildenbrandt was dealing with a sore back after competing in Greco the day before, but noted that when he decided to compete in both disciplines, he “knew it was part of the risk.”
“I also didn’t have a great match, and that can happen,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was at the Olympic trials, but that’s the way it is.”
Hildenbrandt has dominated the men’s heavyweight division at the university level over the past three years, winning a trio of Canada West conference titles and three U SPORTS national championships on behalf of the Cascades. He has also won UFV male athlete of the year awards three years running, and was the CW male wrestler of the year in 2018-19.
UFV’s wrestlers return to action Jan. 11 at the Alberta Golden Bear Invitational. Their annual home tourney, the Cascades Classic, is Jan. 26.
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-With files from Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics