Grapplers from Elphinstone Secondary School, Carson Graham, Collingwood, Sentinel and Argyle hit the mats on Dec. 12 in Gibsons for the annual Rudolph Rumble.
The meet featured more than 85 athletes, with 70-plus making the trip over from the North Shore. It was the largest meet ever hosted by Elphi, which was a huge thing for Elphi coach and meet organizer Clint Fox.
“The energy was really good. My colleague on the North Shore Ian McDonald, who coaches at Carson, is pretty enthusiastic about bringing kids up here,” Fox said. “We had 120 matches, with each athlete wrestling three times in two and a half hours, so everyone got in a lot of experience and a chance to compete. We had quite a few wrestlers who were competing for the first time and it was terrific to see.”
Fox said he saw some good matches and some good finishes by Elphi wrestlers.
“The weight line format, which we used, is used a lot on the North Shore because it gives the kids a lot of experience with minimal amount of organization. We don’t have to do brackets and draws, it’s just get out there and wrestle, which is what the kids want,” he said. “I think the teams like coming up here because they sometimes don’t get that team bonding experience like we do when we travel all the time on the ferry, on the bus. Often times the wrestlers on the North Shore travel individually to their tournaments, so for them to travel up here on the ferry, it’s an overseas tournament — it’s just a lot of fun.”
This year’s edition of the Cougar wrestling team is a younger squad with a real emphasis on Grade 9s.
“This is a great time with the younger kids working with them on how they approach the sport — to get them to be able to self-coach a little bit, to become a little bit more independent as an athlete,” Fox said. “It’s an individual sport. We train as a team, we travel as a team and cheer each other on as a team, but at the end of the day when they step on the mat, they are individual athletes, and so their responsibility for their performance is huge.”
The Grade 12 wrestlers in their final year are Alysha Monk, Nolan O’Reilly and Alex Ratcliff. All three have achieved great success so far and Fox is hoping they all finish their high school careers strong.
“In March when we are all finished, I’d like all three of them to look back at their high school careers and feel proud of what they did, that they did everything as athletes to achieve what they were capable of achieving,” said Fox. “Train like a demon, compete with respect and to your utmost, the results will be what they are.”
Fox said the leadership shown by all three wrestlers is a real help to the overall program.
“Their leadership on the team is essential for the younger kids. Each kid has a chance to move into that leadership role. These three are just the latest link in a long line of kids who have helped younger ones come up, and I really appreciate it. It makes my job easier,” he said.