Despite the International Olympic Committee’s recent announcement that wrestling will be pulled from the list of events to be held at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the sport is still thriving in Prince Albert.
In fact, there is a strong contingent heading to Regina this weekend for the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association’s provincial championships and the coaches for both the St. Mary and Carlton teams feel confident that they will return with some medals.
“We’re really, really happy with the group this year,” says St. Mary head coach Marc Gaumond. “The girls finished second at regionals and the boys were third for small centres.”
“We’re very, very young,” adds Gaumond, who has Callum Olver, Wendy Marcotte and Phil Parenteau helping him with the team, which will feature 12 competitors making the trip to Regina. “With them (the students) talking to their friends they do a lot of recruiting so it is a really bright future.”
“It’s a new cycle (of students),” explains Carlton wrestling head coach Kevin Lavallee. “We’re starting to pull some new kids in.”
Lavallee, who is assisted by Calvin Daum, only has four wrestlers going to provincials, but he is almost certain Tashawna Belhumeur will win her weight class.
“The only one that has beat her this year was a national champion last year,” says Lavallee. “She’s in her third year and goes to camps in the summer. She really is something special.”
Competing at provincials for St. Mary are: Josie Lehner, Kayla Richards, Charity Gareau, Meira Ostapiw, Sydney McIntyre, Charles Cook, Everett Halyk, Michael Escabar, Chad Bear, Heiller Artunduaga, Jeremy Thomas and Andre Fournier. For Carlton it will be Belhumeur, Tanner Pedersen, Joni Lundgren and Nick Hansen.
The mood is surprisingly upbeat considering the news from the IOC, but with the pending date for termination of the sport still seven years away, both Gaumond and Lavallee feel the decision might be reversed.
“I’ve talked to a few university coaches and they feel that if all the wrestling bodies do a better job of pushing for the sport, it might stay around,” says Gaumond, “We might lose Greco Roman (at the Olympics), but we would still have freestyle.”
“It really is a travesty,” adds Lavallee. “Historically it has been there right from the beginning. In the United States it is the sixth most popular sport.”
“I really do believe it is going to be a part of it (Olympics),” continued Lavallee. “It is the cornerstone of the Olympics.”
It has been a long season with most of the competitors having been working on the mats since November. This is the weekend where they hopefully get rewarded for their hard work, but even still, once the high school season is done, most will continue training with local clubs and prepare for the national cadet and junior championships which are to be held in Saskatoon in early April.
It’s one step at a time and maybe some day that step might be on an Olympic stage. One can only hope.