The mark of any great Canadian Interuniversity Sport program is the ability to replace top talent when graduation losses free up roster positions. To that end the McMaster men’s wrestling team is excited to confirm the commitment of blue-chip recruit Ben Zahra from Kingston, and expectations are for him to help keep the Marauders in contention for the Ontario University Athletics title.
Zahra is also the initial recipient of the Greg Woodcroft Athletic Financial Award, an entrance scholarship named in memory of one of McMaster’s most successful wrestlers.
“We are thrilled that Ben has chosen McMaster, and the Woodcroft Award was most helpful in attracting him to come our way,” said long-time McMaster coach Nick Cipriano. “Ben is an impact athlete who is one of the top high school recruits in Canada; he will immediately strengthen our upper middle weight categories.”
Graduating from Kingston’s Regiopolis-Notre Dame high school, Zahra was the 2016 high school provincial champion at 77kg and took the silver medal at the 2016 Juvenile National Championship at 76kg. He was a member of Canada’s Cadet Team in 2015, wrestling at 69kg
“My decision to attend McMaster and wrestle for the Marauders was made based on both athletic and academic goals that I hope to achieve while at university,” said Zahra, who has been admitted to study Life Science. “I knew that by choosing McMaster I was not only choosing a stellar wrestling team, but I was choosing a school with high academic standards.”
Cipriano expects his newest grappler will improve quickly at the university level, as he will get to work with Marauders training partners such as Ahmed Shimaya, Joban Phulkka and Bradley MaGarrey, which is a prospect that suits Zahra just fine.
“The style and technique I see the older guys using at tournaments and at practice is what really showed me how good the program at Mac is and matches up well with the type of wrestler I want to become,” adds Zahra, who brings some family ties to McMaster as both his parents are alumni. “And the training partners at McMaster around my weight are phenomenal; rubbing shoulders with former CIS Champs and Junior World Team Members will undoubtedly make me better.”
Coach Cipriano calls Zahra the perfect candidate to receive the initial Greg Woodcroft Award. Established in 2015, the award is named in memory of the McMaster Hall of Fame wrestler, who helped McMaster win the CIAU championship in 1993. Over his career Woodcroft captured four OUA and three CIAU gold medals. He was a two-time academic All-Canadian, and represented Canada at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.