The SFU men’s wrestling team wrapped up a successful trip to Spokane, Washington this weekend with a second place finish at the Spokane Open. This tournament is one of the first for the Clan and usually attracts some of the best talent in the Northwest, including several NCAA Division I schools.
“Overall it was a good performance from a group that’s missing two of our leaders. With seniors Tyler McLean and Josh Kim out of the lineup with injuries, the rest of the squad stepped up and really competed hard,” head coach Justin Abdou said of the team’s performance overall.
The Clan had several impressive individual performances as well, with Sean Molle (HWT), Reid Watkins (174 lbs), and Kenji Yamashita (149 lbs) all taking third place.
“Kenji avenged two losses from earlier this season to his North Idaho opponent, which was a real positive for him after missing all of last season due to injury,” Abdou said. “Reid has already had as many matches this year as he did all of last year, which was cut short from injury. If he stays healthy and continues to improve he will be a real threat come March.”
Cruz Velasquez (133 lbs) also had a successful tournament, as defended his championship from last year’s Spokane Open, once again placing first. When asked about his performance thus far this season, Abdou did not hesitate to say, “He’s been great so far. Opponents are finding him very hard to score on.”
At 197 lbs, there was an all-SFU final between Morgan Smith and Ciaran Ball. Interestingly, these two athletes not only go to SFU together, but also were training partners in high school when they both attended Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood, Washington.
“Wrestling Ciaran was exciting. I’m always glad when a teammate makes it to the finals, I just don’t expect to wrestle them. We do train a lot together, and he’s my best friend. I think we have made each other better. I don’t think about that tuff before I step on the mat. My mental preparation is always the same,” Smith said when asked about wrestling his teammate.
Smith recently bumped up to 197 lbs, as he wrestled in the 184 weight class for all of last year. The bump seems to be working out well for him, as he has yet to lose a match in his new weight class.
“[He] dominated all of his opponents this weekend with 4 pins and 2 major decisions. He is 11-0 on the season,” Abdou said of Smith’s wrestling over the weekend.
When asked if he did anything different to prepare this year, Smith said, “I wrestled all summer and competed in tough tournaments [. . .] Last year didn’t end how I wanted it to, so I’m doing everything in my power to make sure I don’t feel that way again. Nothing has changed really in terms of work ethic, I’ve just learned a lot about wrestling.”
“I feel like our team is a very tight-knit group and I think that we have yet to see our full potential” he continued” We started off slow but we’re picking up steam, which has to do with cutting weight properly and getting our minds right. Our identity as a team is that we’re intelligent and extremely hard-working, which to me is a deadly combo.”
The Clan compete next in a series of duals in Great Falls, Montana next weekend before wrapping up the first part of the season at the Reno Tournament of Champions. The Clan International wrestling tournament will also take place in West Gym on December 2nd and 3rd.