A Prince Rupert wrestler returned home with a gold medal from the Western Canada Age Class Wrestling Championships, on Feb. 5 and 6.
Mary-Jane Rojeski won all of her matches on the first of the two-day tournament to take home the top spot.
Her four other team members also experienced a successful showing bring home silver and bronze medals at the tournament hosted by Simon Fraser University and held at the university.
“Myself and the other coaches are super happy with our athletes’ performances this weekend. We really could not have asked for a better showing,” Dane Waldal, martial arts head coach at Muscle Panda MMA, said.
Tyson Nguyen walked away with a bronze medal on day one of the event and a silver on the second day. Sarah Clarke placed fourth on the first day, but won bronze on day two of the tournament. Tyler Harris placed fourth on both days, while Hyla McQuaid placed fourth and sixth. Rojeski also placed fourth on her second day of competing.
At an age class tournament, athletes are organized in age groups based on their wight class and age. Typically, wrestling competitions are organized by weight class only.
McQuaid competed in the U19 plus the U20 female divisions. Nguyen, Clarke, Rojeski, and Harris all competed in their respective U17 and U20 divisions.
Each athlete competed with drive and confidence despite the fact they were up against people who may have had more training or experience going into the championship, Waldal said.
“They seemed to really enjoy it and I hope they’re proud of themselves,” he said.
The tournament was the first since 2020 for the Muscle Panda MMA wrestling club.
Simon Fraser University hosts one of the premier wrestling programs in Canada and it was a great opportunity for the youth to show off their skills in front of university coaches.
“There’s lots of coaches and scouts from the next level. They use this [tournament] to start identifying people for provincial teams,” the coach said.
However, the youth won’t have too much time to celebrate their success.
The tournament was a good confidence-builder and building block for the athletes to start getting ready for the last few weeks of the competitive school wrestling season, Waldal said.
On Feb. 12 the wrestlers head to Hazelton to compete at the BC School Sports Zones.
“The kids are going to be representing their schools instead of the club and they’re going to be competing for a chance to go to the BC School Sports wrestling provincials tournament at the end of the month,” Waldal said.
This year is also a BC Summer Games year, which will be held in Prince George. So, Waldal will keep busy training with his athletes even after provincials for a chance to qualify for the games this summer.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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