By Ron Guillet
The Laurentian University Voyageur Athletics will be adding men’s and women’s wrestling teams to its varsity sports program this September.
While wrestling has been an Ontario Universities Athletics program since 1947, this will be its debut in Sudbury as a post-secondary sport. And the Voyageurs have wasted no time importing an experienced coach to take the reins, hiring Andy Lalonde for the position.
Lalonde began his international wrestling career in 1994 as a member of the junior team at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He won seven provincial championships, three Canadian championships and finished fifth on the ladder for the 1996 Olympic trials. In 1995, Lalonde was named the Canadian Men U-20 MVP. Lalonde’s knowledge in the sport is embedded in him, as multiple World and Olympic Champion Anatoli Belaglozov coached him throughout his career.
Lalonde’s experience on the mat translated to a successful career in coaching as well. He had an assistant coaching position on the gold medal winning Canadian U-20 Men’s team at the Pan-Am Championships; moreover, he has developed a slew of successful wrestlers, having coached seven Canadian champions, 23 Canadian Championship medalists, Pan-American champions, a winner at the Commonwealth Youth Championships and a few athletes who have earned top-five finishes in the world. Lalonde also led three teams to a top-three finish at provincials.
Laurentian Athletic Director, Peter Hellstrom, thinks Lalonde will help build a solid foundation for the wresting teams.
“Andy Lalonde brings a great resume with him and someone of his caliber, with the experience and expertise that he has, will be a great leader for the program,” Hellstrom said.
Lalonde thinks the Voyageurs will compete from the onset and avoid the growing pains that often accompany a new varsity program.
“With all of the local up and coming talent combined with those students who are coming here from afar, we have the ability to provide this program with a great foundation,” Lalonde said. “I don’t want to just go out there and participate, I want to compete and I want to win. Laurentian has some great facilities and Sudbury is fairly central for the communities in Northeastern Ontario. Those are some key ingredients in developing a program that will be successful for years to come.”
Hellstrom is thrilled to add another varsity team to the fold as Laurentian continues to expand.
“I am very excited to be bringing another team into the mix here at Laurentian,” Hellstrom said. “With the additions we have made in the past few years and now wrestling, we have 10 sports under our umbrella and we are very proud to be expanding the number of student-athletes at Laurentian.