After 36 years of excellence under one man, the McMaster wrestling program will begin a new era as Canadian National Team veteran Cleo Ncube has assumed the head coaching mantle from the retired Nick Cipriano.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Ncube was raised in Kingston, Ontario, and spent several years based in Montreal, where he trained with the powerhouse Montreal Wrestling Club. He came to Hamilton last year to join the coaching staffs for the McMaster varsity team and the Hamilton Wrestling Club, spending the season working with Cipriano, and establishing a familiarity with the local wrestling scene.
“It’s a little overwhelming right now but it’s a new and exciting experience,” said Ncube about taking over from the longtime Marauder mentor. “He (Cipriano) did a great job and I know a lot of people he influenced in the sport. He has cast a big shadow but this is where I want to be because he set the standard of where I want to go.” Ncube will also assume the head coach role with the Hamilton Wrestling Club, which operates in partnership with McMaster.
The new coach brings an impressive resume as he was a mainstay of the Canadian National Team, wrestling at 70-kilos. Among Ncube’s many accomplishments: he was a three-time Senior Canadian Champion, a two-time CIS Champion, Pan Am Games silver medalist and nine years on the National Team.
Inheriting a program that won OUA silver and U Sports bronze on the men’s side in 2017, Ncube is looking forward to giving back to a sport that shaped his life. “A lot of people gave me opportunities, so the best way to pay tribute to those people is to do the same,” the new coach said. “I have more knowledge now and I’m still learning, so I’m trying to do my part to instill the passion in others that was instilled in me.”
While he assembles his support network, Ncube will lean on long-time McMaster stalwarts Kevin MacLellan and Sheldon Francis, who will be available as resources. In addition, outstanding recent graduates Ahmed Shamiya and Jason Buckle are still training with the McMaster program and working with current team members.
“I believe expectations come from within,” Ncube said about team prospects for the new season. “I’m here to show them the right way to wrestle. I want to give them the tools so they believe they can accomplish anything and then the sky is the limit.
McMaster’s associate director of athletics Mark Alfano said that after an extensive search the Marauder program is in capable hands, “Cleo Ncube has great knowledge and experience to provide to our student-athletes from his national team days, as well as being an assistant with the program last year.”
“We want to thank Nick Cipriano for his dedication to our program for the past 36 years but we are confident that Cleo will continue what Coach Cipriano built and provide our athletes with opportunities at OUA and U Sports banners,” Alfano said.
Coach Ncube believes change can be a good thing and he’s confident he is ready for the challenge of his new position. “It’s an absolute honour to be hired by such a prestigious university. I truly look forward to raising banners and I’m more than excited to get started.”
The Marauders will be host of the McMaster Wrestling Invitational on Nov. 4.