By Larry Moko
Jaeson Wang of the St. Mary Crusaders was a smash hit in his debut as a high school badminton player.
The Grade 9 student, who opted to compete at the senior level this year rather than against junior-age players, qualified for next week’s Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association playoffs. He punched his ticket by winning five matches out of six during Wednesday’s double-knockout tournament held at F. H. Sherman Recreation Centre.
About 220 players were entered in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Wang’s only loss was to a much older, more experienced and physically stronger player – fifth-year high school student Kyle Martin of the St. Thomas More Knights. Martin went undefeated to earn a spot in the upcoming quarter-finals.
“He’s a natural,” St. Mary coach Ming Chong said of Wang. “When I saw him play at practice I said ‘I’ll let you make the call’ about whether to play junior or senior. I told him I would check with the administration to see if it was OK. In all my years I can honestly say I haven’t seen many Grade 9s play here. If he played junior he would win and maybe go on a run of four years in a row as champion. That would be quite an honour.”
Wang also faced a choice of whether to enter singles or play mixed doubles with his sister, Iris, who is in Grade 12. She also qualified for the April 17 quarter-finals in mixed doubles with partner Keven Brennan.
“I like playing against really strong players to get me better,” said Wang, who hopes he can contribute to St. Mary capturing the senior city championship.
Martin faced Wang in a recent friendly match, so he knew what to expect.
“He’s very good at placing the bird,” Martin said. “He has a good clear/drop game. I knew that going in.
“For him to be that good at that age is really something. That kid could definitely be an OFSAA contender in the future.”
Martin advanced to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference tournament as a mixed doubles player last year and took part in GHAC singles in 2017.
“The goal for me has always been to go to OFSAA,” Martin said. “It’s tough, though. I’ve been to GHAC twice and haven’t won a game.”
Also advancing to next week’s HWCAA quarter-finals in men’s singles will be Nikolas Klemencic, of Cardinal Newman, Angel Delima, of Cathedral, Conrad Czarnecki, of Bishop Ryan, and T. J. Hughes, of St. Thomas More.
In women’s singles, quarter-finalists are Chloe Umutoni (Bishop Ryan), Valentina Papaioannou (St. Mary), Kiara Parkinson (St. Mary), Carlene Cecchelli, (St. Jean de Brebeuf), Tina Huynh (Cathedral) and Krisha Palengleng (Cathedral).
Advancing in the men’s doubles category will be Kirk Rosos/Viktor Esma (Cathedral), Luca Ramelli/Ben Xamin (Bishop Ryan), John Lillis/Sam Mulroney (St. Mary), Gabe Bebas/Nick Connolly (Cardinal Newman), Connor Ogg/Lucas Stegmaier (St. Mary) and A.J. Scala/James Curwen (St. Mary).
Still in contention for gold in the women’s doubles division are Kaya Gasiorowski/Paige Richmond (Cardinal Newman), Natalie Schaefer/Couture (St. Mary), Kaviya Varghese/Aida Khosroabadi (Bishop Tonnos), Rachel Grightmire/Taite Cleland (St. Mary), Emma Kairys/Alyssa Susi (Cardinal Newman), Chloe Frias/Emilie Calabrese (St. Thomas More).
The mixed doubles quarter-final participants are Nhi Duong/Jude Sinclair (Cathedral), Keven Brennan/Iris Wang (St. Mary), Adam El Dora/Alyssa Giovannangeli (St. Thomas More), Brenden Furlanetto/Erin Zuk (Bishop Ryan), Tilen Groznik/Kristen Abboud (Bishop Ryan) and Hunter Lee/Julia Di Federico (Bishop Tonnos).