By John Matisz/London Community News
With the clock ticking down to zero at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) wrestling finals in Hamilton Saturday (Feb. 11), the words "left leg, left leg" kept coming from Brianne Barry's corner.
The inevitable was about to unfold.
The 20-year-old Western Mustang listened to the guiding hollers, sneaking her left leg over Diana Ford of Brock before pinning and securing the victory. Winning the highly contested battle 2-1, the London native captured her third OUA gold medal in as many years.
"It's rare to get an MVP, let alone two," said Western wrestling coach Ray Takahashi when asked about the significance of both Barry and teammate Ilya Abelev obtaining Outstanding Wrestler awards in the women's and men's categories, respectively.
Though the Mustangs' work is not done, Takahashi is quick to point out the 2011-12 season has been quite extraordinary. Saturday represented the first time in almost two decades Western had finished atop the men's points standings at provincials. It was also the eighth time Takahashi, head coach of the program since 1985, has been named the OUA Coach of the Year.
On the men's side, Abelev (68kg) and Takahashi's son, Steven (54 kg), captured gold in their weight classes. The pair, along with six other male teammates, will don purple and white at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Wrestling Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont., from Feb. 24-25.
Five girls are headed north as well, with Barry leading the charge. The daughter of 1976 Montreal Olympics wrestler Mike Barry endured the back-and-forth final match versus her rival, Ford, right up until the final 20 seconds. That's when her testiness came in handy.
"I was really motivated because she had beaten me in a couple previous meetings," Barry explained, "and I'm the type of wrestler who gets irritating as the match goes on."
"It's just exciting to be back on top."
Barry, a Central Secondary School graduate in her third year at Western, is one of 19 Forest City natives on the Mustangs 44-wrestler roster. The impressive homegrown talent pool, Barry said, is a testament to the program's connection to London-Western Wrestling Club.
Over the next two weeks, the 13 who qualified for nationals will be focusing solely on fine-tuning their games. When it is this late in the season, Takahashi said, keeping weight under control, as well as working on small tactical moves, is all that's left to do.
"We have to peak again, and I don't think that'll be a problem," he said.
The last top 10 rankings released by the CIS had the Western women ranked fifth and women ranked sixth.