Sabres Rookie Ben Anderson takes down an opponent.
The Wetaskiwin Composite High School Sabres Wrestling team won the Alberta School Athletic Association (ASAA) 3A Provincial Championship March 8/9th in Edmonton.
After having to settle for second at the ASAA Rural provincial championship Feb. 23 when Edson Parkland high school beat the Sabres by only two points, the team more than doubled their rivalry’s points to bring home the banner this past weekend. The ASAA provincial championship included the top five rural wrestlers in each weight class plus the top five from Edmonton and Calgary; bringing even more competition than the Sabres faced at the Rural championships. While Edson only had two medalists on the podium this past weekend, the Sabres rallied hard and five of the six Wetaskiwin combatants won medals for an amazing 37 points! This also beat out other schools from Okotoks, Fort Vermilion, Lethbridge and others from around the province.
For Coach Shane Rybak this was his 18th year coaching the Sabres, and this was the 10th time the team has won the title of top high school team in Alberta. “These kids brought their A-game to this tournament and performed even better against the big city teams than they did against the rural schools two weeks ago. They were motivated after barely missing the rural banner and that gave them the determination to practice hard, and that in turn earned them this victory. They should be very proud of themselves,” Rybak said after the victory.
For grade 12 student Colton McDonnell, this was his third year representing the school at provincials and the third year that he won gold at the highest level of Alberta high school wrestling. Colton said that “Ever since starting high school this was my goal; and although very few high school wrestlers achieve this I knew that if I worked hard enough at practice, and dug deep in my matches, I could do it.” Colton won his 50Kg gold medal match in two rounds, not giving a single point to Christian Nori from Okotoks who beat Colton by one point at Rural provincials. This weekend Colton achieved technical superiority over Nori and proved he was the better technical wrestler. Colton was also a silver medalist at the Canadian National Championships in 2012, and wrestled at the Pan Am Cadet championships in Venezuela for Team Canada where he finished fifth. He will now be looking ahead and preparing for nationals in April.
Grade 10 student Nakai McDonnell won silver at 53Kg winning all his matches with ease until his gold medal final when he faced Johnny Vo from McNally high school in Edmonton. Johnny is a grade 12 veteran wrestler who trains with the U of A Golden Bears wrestling club. Nakai had to miss practices on Monday and Tuesday of the week before competition due to a shoulder injury sustained snowmobiling last Sunday. After much acupuncture and physical therapy, Nakai’s shoulder was back moving freely again. Coach and father Shamus McDonnell said “the injury was pretty close to preventing him from competing, so it was really fortunate that Nakai was able to get this looked after and then compete so well.” Nakai was disappointed to miss the gold, but said “I think I can beat Johnny if I had more time to practice, I was the only one that scored on him in this tournament and I had him on his back twice, but he slipped out both times.”
Jon Risto, also a grade 10 student won silver after a very close match that went full time in three rounds and was decided by technical points in the end. Coach Rybak said “Jon is an amazing young athlete and was so close to winning this match, we could not have expected him to wrestle any better than he did. With more experience and practice Jon will be a provincial champion, and for his age is a great prospect for nationals this year.”
Ben Anderson, the grade 11 rookie to the Sabres wrestling squad also won a silver medal in the 65Kg weight class. After losing his first match, Ben fought back on the B side of the draw and made it into cross overs for the final. He defeated numerous veteran wrestlers to make it to the gold medal final, where he lost to Edson’s Vincent Kuilboeur; a grade 12 veteran and favorite to win the weight class.
Raymond Risto who also wrestled the 65Kg, and won the bronze at Rurals, did not place this weekend. He was unable to recover from some early losses, but his contributions in team spirit helped carry his fellow wrestlers to their medal rounds.
Morgan Reeves won bronze at 90Kg after narrowly losing his cross over match. “Morgan was very close to the top two and those matches could have easily gone either way” said coach McDonnell.
Hidde van der Kamp from Pigeon Lake Regional High School who also trains with the Wetaskiwin Sabres, but competes independently under his school as per ASAA regulations, also won a bronze medal. Hidde beat Grayson Manning from Calgary in the preliminary rounds, but then lost to him in the cross over semifinal, allowing Grayson to go on to the gold Medal match and leaving Hidde to fight for the bronze. “It was the only match Hidde lost, and after beating him the first time, we were disappointed, but still very happy about how well Hidde wrestled” said coach McDonnell. It was also exciting that Olympian Carol Huynh, who won Gold wrestling at the Olympics in 2008 and bronze in 2012, was coaching Grayson.
“As coaches we were pretty proud of how well our wrestlers performed, we had dozens of comments on the fact that we had four wrestlers in the finals” said coach McDonnell. “We are now finished the high school season, but we don’t get a break as the Alberta Amateur Wrestling Association (AAWA) Provincial Opens are this Sunday, March 17th, and wrestlers wanting to go on to the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association (CAWA) National Championships are required to participate. All of our wrestlers are looking forward to this.”
The Wetaskiwin Wrestling club will be looking for sponsorship for their trip to Nationals, which will be held April 4th to 7th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “We are looking for sponsors to help with our travel costs, and anything that will help us to cover the expenses so that these young athletes can take their skills to the next level. Most anything would be greatly appreciated!” said team manager Cari McDonnell. Anyone interested can contact Cari at 780.278.4624.
- Beaumont Rugby Teams go to Provincials This year both the Beaumont Girls and Boys Rugby teams advanced to the Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s (ASAA) Provincial Championships held in Lethbridge on June 7th and 8th. Both Bandits teams earned the right ...