University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds Philippe Maillet falls with the University Cup after defeating the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 3-1 to win the Canadian Interuniversity Sports hockey championship in Halifax on March 20, 2016. Hockey players Sarah Bujold of St. Francis Xavier University and Maillet of the University of New Brunswick are among the finalists for the 25th annual BLG Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Wrestling, basketball in the spotlight as nominees for BLG awards announced

TORONTO — Hec Crighton Trophy winner Ed Ilnicki and two-sport athlete Temitope Ogunjimi are among the eight nominees for the 2018 BLG Awards, given annually to the top male and female U Sports athletes of the year.

Ilnicki took the Crighton honour as the U Sports football MVP last season. He broke the Canada West single-season rushing record with 1,468 rushing yards in 2017 and led the Alberta Golden Bears back to the Canada West playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Ilnicki was drafted 62nd overall by the Ottawa Redblacks in 2017 and signed a two-year deal with the CFL club in January.

Ogunjimi capped an impressive tenure at the University of Calgary by helping the Dinos win a second straight rugby conference title, earning all-Canadian honours in the process. She then turned her attention to the wrestling mat, where the Calgary grappler won a national title in the 67-kilogram classification and was named U Sports’ outstanding female wrestler of the year.

The other nominees for the Doug Mitchell Trophy presented to the U Sports male athlete of the year are Laurentian Voyageurs basketball player Kadre Gray, Concordia Stingers wrestler Francis Carter and UNB Varsity Reds basketball player Javon Masters.

Gray, from Toronto, was named U Sports men’s basketball player of the year after leading the country in assists (141) and finishing second in points (488). Carter, a Montreal native, was named U Sports outstanding male wrestler of the year after winning a national title in the 68-kilo weight class.

Masters, from Kitchener, Ont., led U Sports in scoring and finished his five-year varsity career with a record 2,407 points.

Rounding out the finalists for the Jim Thompson Trophy presented to the U Sports female athlete of the year are volleyball players Theanna Vernon of the Ryerson Rams and Marie-Alex Belanger of the Montreal Carabins and Acadia Axewomen basketball player Paloma Anderson.

Vernon, from Toronto, was named an all-Canadian as she led the Rams to a 25-0 season as Ryerson won its first national championship in any sport. Belanger, from Joliette, Que., led the nation with 3.98 kills per set and was named the U Sports women’s volleyball player of the year.

Anderson, from Phoenix, is a finalist for the Jim Thompson Trophy for the second time in three seasons. She led Acadia to a conference title and was named U Sports women’s basketball player of the year.

The winners will be announced June 4 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver.

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