WCHS Sabres Wrestling Team Narrowly Miss Provincial Championship For Second Year
The Wetaskiwin Sabres wrestling team pose with their medals and second place plaque.
Photo submitted by Cari McDonnell
The Wetaskiwin Composite High School Sabres wrestling team came home with the second place plaque from the ASAA Rural Provincial Championships in High River on February 23rd, 2013. After winning the Rural Provincial 3A banner and title as Provincial Champs in 2011, the Sabres narrowly missed the top spot and finished second for the second year in a row. In 2012, the team tied for tournament points and lost the tie breaker because the opposing team had two gold medals and the Sabres had only one of the precious gold medals.
The 2013 championships ended with surprises and upsets that resulted with the Sabres tallying up 34 points and falling two points short of the Edson High School with 36 points who claimed first place and took the banner home.
Tournament points are awarded for the top five finishes in each weight class, with a maximum of 10 points being awarded for a gold medal in a weight class with 5 or more wrestlers competing. The first upset for Wetaskiwin at the 2013 championship occurred when veteran grade 12 wrestler Colton McDonnell had only two competitors make weight for the 50Kg weight class. This limited Colton to a maximum five points that he could earn for first place. Another upset occurred in Colton’s first match when an underdog squeaked by Colton and then went on to win Gold by technical points. Colton was forced to settle for Silver and the team only received three points toward the team championship.
At 53 Kg however, a surprise gold medal was earned by Colton’s grade 10 younger brother who tore through the competition. Nakai put in the best performance of his wrestling career, pinning one opponent in just eight seconds after the whistle blew to start the match! Coach and father Shamus McDonnell said, “that pin was a speed record for Nakai; and when you think about it, it’s pretty hard to take someone from standing to a pin much faster than that.”
The second disappointment occurred in Jon Risto’s 56Kg weight class which also had a disappointing turnout with only four competitors. Although a first year high school wrestler in grade 10, Jon has been beating the best in the province all year. Jon unfortunately made only one error, but a critical one, and it resulted in Jon being pinned in his final match for the gold medal. His opponent ended up with more technical points and walked away with the gold, leaving Jon with the silver and less points for the team championship.
The 65Kg weight class had the largest turn out in the tournament with 13 competitors, including two Sabres; veteran Raymond Risto and rookie Ben Anderson. The draw put the two wrestlers in different pools, where they each wrestled a round robin, and each lost only one match to finish second in their respective pools, qualifying both to advance to the semifinal cross overs with the opportunity to win medals. Raymond lost a close match to Edson veteran Vince Kuilboer, who went on to win gold. Then minutes later Ben was injured after a takedown in his semifinal match and coach Shane Rybak made the difficult call to forfeit the final seconds of his semifinal match; “We won’t take chances and push these athletes when they are injured, no win is worth possibly aggravating an injury. We will always choose caution where their wellbeing is at stake,” Shane said after the match.
The two 65 Kg Sabres were left facing each other for the bronze medal match and in a demonstration of true sportsmanship, Raymond chose an alternative to wrestling for the bronze medal with his injured team mate, and the two simply played a best of three Rock, Paper or Scissors! When the whistle blew for their match they immediately played out their tie breaker to the surprise of the onlookers. With a confused look on the official’s faces, Raymond and Ben explained that due to Ben’s injury, Raymond’s double play of scissors beat Ben’s double play of paper, and Raymond won the match, and the bronze medal! And the Sabres collected the points for a third and fourth place finish in the largest weight class.
Grade 11 Sabre Morgan Reeves continued to have success at 90Kg and dominated his competition all the way to the gold medal match. In the final, Morgan won the first round after an overtime clinch, then lost the second and third rounds and had to settle for silver. “Morgan wrestled amazing and always had a big smile on his face; he deserves to be recognized for his hard work and positive attitude” said coach McDonnell of Morgan’s performance.
Pigeon Lake Regional High school wrestler Hidde van der Kamp, who trains and travels with the Sabres, represented his school at the 76Kg weight class. Hidde won silver in a tough match against Dan Gerry from Slave Lake; the two have met several times this year, and the unbeaten Gerry has claimed gold in every match up this season. Coach Shane Rybak said “Dan is solid, moves well, and is fast to catch opponents in a throw if they get off balance. Hidde comes close, but can beat him if he can stay out of Dan’s throws. We’ll be drilling that every day over the next two weeks.”
Because all seven members of the small squad from Wetaskiwin placed higher than fifth, they all qualify for ASAA provincial championships which will include the top five Edmonton, Calgary and Rural Alberta wrestlers. The ASAA provincial championship tournament will be held in Edmonton on March 8th and 9th. The Sabres will be training hard between now and then to try and ensure that they beat Edson and the city 3A schools when the points are tallied on the afternoon of the ninth!
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