The biggest team and the smallest team were the big winners at the Yukon Wrestling Championships on Wednesday at the Canada Games Centre.
A 103-wrestler team from Whitehorse’s Christ the King Elementary won the overall aggregate while a three-person team from Carcross’s Ghuch Tla Community School won the best performing title at the championship that saw 494 wrestlers compete in about 1,400 matches.
“Over the years we’ve just been building a culture of wrestling and each year we’re progressing, building more skills. Now some of our wrestlers have been in the program for four or five years and it’s really starting to show,” said Christ the King coach Ron Billingsley. “It’s neat to see them come back each year and retain the skills they learned the previous year and build on some new ones. That’s showing up in all the medals that we’re winning.”
RELATED:See the results here.
Christ the King, who have now won the division three years in a row, collected a total of 59 medals with 23 gold. Its team was the biggest the school has ever assembled for the championship, up from 98 wrestlers last year.
“We’re progressively growing each year,” said Billingsley. “Now it’s part of our school and almost a third of our school is involved in wrestling.”
Whitehorse’s Holy Family Elementary, who won the category every year between 2007 and 2012, came in second with 64 competitors.
Whitehorse’s Ecole Emilie-Tremblay snatched third with 46 wrestlers competing.
Ghuch Tla won the best performing trophy – given to the team with the greatest points-to-wrestlers ratio – with all three of its wrestlers taking a medal. (Only one other team, from Kluane Lake School, had just three wrestlers register.)
This week was the Carcross school’s third time competing and its first trophy.
“I go into the Grade 1-2-3 room and I’ve been doing gym with them for the past six weeks,” said Ghuch Tla coach Cindy Freeman. “I taught them how to wrestle. Unfortunately most of the kids are in Grade 1, but they’re all good for next years, so we might have a strong team coming up next year.”
Representing Ghuch Tla was Seth Smith who captured bronze in the 22 kilo division, Alex Lojang with silver in 27 kilo and Dawson Penner with gold in 34 kilo.
“(Penner) won all five (matches) and he had a couple of pins, so he did really, really good,” said Freeman.
Yukon Montessori School – the “Montessori Maulers” – took second. The school, which had 15 wrestlers, won best performing last year.
Ecole Emilie-Tremblay placed third, possibly becoming the first school ever to place top-three in both divisions in the same year.
Thirty-three of Emilie-Trambley’s 46 wrestlers captured a medal on Wednesday.
“We lost a few medals because we had three students participating in the Rotary (Music) Festival who missed some of their matches,” said Emilie-Trambley coach Marc Champagne.
“We started in January this year and we have a lot of teachers who are involved in the wrestling program and every year we try to participate in any training that’s going on. I think everyone is getting more familiar with teaching technique and how to run a practice so we’re more efficient.”
“It’s one of the more popular sports at our school; the kids really love it.”
This year’s championship had a record 21 schools compete, up from 16 last year. There was 17 elementary schools from throughout the territory, including newcomer St. Elias Community School from Haines Junction, plus four high schools.
In fact, the event was previously called the Yukon Elementary Wrestling Championships, but addition of the high schools this year led to a name change.
It’s one of the biggest wrestling events in Canada, said organizer and Holy Family coach Ted Hupe.
“I’ve gone around and around trying to find numbers of major tournaments and none of them are this big and none of them are single-day tournaments,” said Hupe. “Even high school tournaments are not that big. There are tournaments in the States that are 800, 900, but they are multi-day tournaments.
“So this is really unique and there are no other elementary school tournaments in the country … Strange things are done in the land of the midnight sun and this is an example of that,” he added, paraphrasing Robert Service.
Eight high school wrestlers, many of who might go on to represent Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games next year in Greenland, competed at the championship.
Watson Lake Secondary School placed first in points, ahead of Porter Creek Secondary, F.H. Collins Secondary and Vanier Catholic in fourth.
“This year we had great referee participation,” said Hupe. “Not only from the referee community but this year we connected with the F.H. Collins Sports School. They came to Holy Family last week and did a workshop with (wrestling coach) Rob Langmaid … And they volunteered to work at the tournament and helped ref.”
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