Travis Mills of Saskatoon grapples with Brandon Morrison of Lloydminster in U16 judo action at a Judo Sask tournament hosted by the Prince Albert Kenshukan Judo Club on Saturday at Carlton Comprehensive High School. Herald photo by Andrew Schopp
Judo clubs from across the province converged on Prince Albert as the Kenshukan Judo Club wrapped up their provincial season by hosting their final provincial tournament on Saturday.
Held at Carlton Comprehensive High School, the two-day event kicked off on Saturday with tournament competition before participants attended a team training session on Sunday with Judo Saskatchewan high-performance coach Ewan Beaton.
Saturday's Judo Sask sanctioned tournament served as the end of the formal judo season for Kenshukan club members, with the exception of Prince Albert native Josh Guthrie, who will be competing at the national level in May.
Nursing a back injury sustained earlier this week, Guthrie was sidelined on Saturday, however both he and Kenshukan coach Doyle Ironstand remain confident he'll be ready for the 2014 Canadian Judo Championship in Saguenay, Quebec on May 15-18.
"He's eager, young and athletic and he's got great ability," Ironstand said of Guthrie. "He's been plagued with injuries the last little while which kind of sucks but the fortunate thing for him is he's young, he'll bounce back."
Ironstand added that in preparation for nationals, the 14-year-old needs to exercise caution without "backing off" his fitness regimen.
While helping a hand as a scorekeeper for Saturday's tournament at Carlton, Guthire agreed with his coaches' advice.
"I'm just taking it easy for this one," Guthrie said as he looks forward to competing in his third national event. "I'm going to Saskatoon for training and I'm going to the gym after school most days."
Although Guthrie is the only Kenshukan member heading to Quebec this year, Ironstand said that the future is bright for his club, with many of its members developing at a rapid pace.
"We are in good shape," Ironstand said. "We have probably another four or five athletes at our club who I believe in the next couple of years will be national competitors at a pretty high level."
Guthrie enters nationals with several accolades already under his belt. Most recently, Guthrie took home a silver medal in the +50kg skills competition at the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games in Prince Albert.
In 2012, Guthrie struck gold in the U15 -60kg category at the Grand Masters World Championships in Miami, Fla.
Guthrie is confident that he will medal once again at nations and Ironstand agreed, saying that his star pupil stacks up well against a tough field of fighters from Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
"He stands as good a chance as probably two-thirds or three-quarters of that field at nationals at medalling," Ironstand said of Guthrie medal aspirations. "It is a combat sport, we have people that dominate but everybody can have their day and he's very capable of that."
Although Saturday was the final sanctioned competition for Kenshukan, there is still judo for the club to look forward to before they get going again in September.
Kenshukan fighters have been invited to attend will attend the Judo Saskatchewan Summer Camp in Outlook on Aug. 10-16 where they will train once again with Beaton and three other high performance coaches.
While coaching and cheering his Kenshukan competitors on, Ironstand shared his philosophy of how judo transcends sport, as it molds young athletes into model citizens.
"What these kids do right now is a precursor for life," said Ironstand, who's been a judo athlete since he was 11-years-old. " Judo teaches a lot of things that we don't even mean to teach .The guy who founded this sport, his philosophy behind the sport itself was that you leave this world in better shape than it was and that's what we are all supposed to aspire to do."