By Larry Moko
The Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School wrestling team got off the bus from Ottawa clutching two gold medals and a couple of other prized possessions.
“We have two new banners to raise for the celebration of our 50th,” Celtics wrestling coach Sheldon Francis said.
A reunion/dinner/dance is in the works for Saturday, April 27 to mark the 50thanniversary of Bishop Ryan wrestling. And the banners Francis referred to are team championship awards from the 2019 OFSAA high school wrestling championships held earlier this week at TD Place.
The Celtics captured both girls’ team and combined team honours. The Bishop Ryan boys contributed to the school’s overall success with a second-place team finish.
It was the second-straight year the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association delegation has finished on top at provincial finals in girls and combined and taken boys’ team silver.
Bishop Ryan was represented at the three-day event in the Nation’s Capital by 15 girls and 13 boys.
“We had a very young girls’ team with a lot of Grade 9s,” Francis said. “Ellise Daynes (a fifth-year student) was our team captain and she was able to hold the team up to the standards we needed to be at. She did a great job.”
Daynes captured a gold medal in the 67.5 kg division as did her teammate Serena Di Benedetto in the 44 kg. grouping.
Bishop Ryan’s Madison Caruso also earned a silver medal at 115kg. In that same weight division, Claudia Landry of BR climbed the podium after her fourth-place finish.
“I was so proud of all our girls,” said Daynes who won OFSAA gold for a second-consecutive year. “I actually lost my voice because I was cheering so hard for all of them.
“I’m happy we were able to secure the gold. It was definitely the best way to go out. I’m sad, though, I don’t get to put that (BR) singlet back on.”
One other HWCAA competitor – Brittany Hutchinson of the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves – ended up fifth in the girls’ 77 kg class.
In boys’ action, Bishop Ryan’s highest finishes were by Evan Scott, 64 kg, fifth; Jacob Mines, 44 kg, sixth; Gianluca Fortino, 54 kg, sixth; Adrianno Di Benedetto, 67.5 kg, sixth; Lukas Geske, 72 kg, sixth.
“I was pleasantly surprised by our performance, especially on the boys’ side,” Francis said. “Our boys were in a lot of tough matches and we had some very tough breaks. As a team, we edged out our GHAC rival, Georgetown, for second.”
According to Francis, Serena Di Benedetto was determined to bring home the gold from OFSAA after a disappointing result in 2018 when she was in Grade 9.
“Last year Serena got caught and pinned in a semifinal when she was winning the match,” Francis said. “She wanted to go all the way through and finish it this year.”
Di Benedetto admitted being nervous entering this year’s semifinal. “I just had to remember that I worked really hard all year to get there,” she said. “Take care of one point at a time and one match at a time.”
As for BR’s other golden girl, Francis said: “Ellise kind of dominated her matches and enjoyed herself at OFSAA. It’s the last time she will be wearing the green and white of Bishop Ryan.”
Di Benedetto and Daynes both won Canadian championships last April in Edmonton – Daynes in U19 juvenile and Di Benedetto in U17 cadet. Di Benedetto was the youngest Bishop Ryan wrestler (male or female) to ever to win a Canadian championship.
Up next for Daynes is junior national competition, March 21-23 in Saskatoon. She came third at that level last year.
Serena Di Benedetto’s next action is April 5-7 at the U-17/U-19 nationals in Fredericton where she hopes to repeat as Canadian champion.