Tyson Nguyen won gold at the BC School Sports Wrestling Provincials on Feb. 26. (Photo: Norman Galimski/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert wrestler wins provincial title

Three qualify for provincial team try-outs

Prince Rupert has a new provincial wrestling champion.

Tyson Nguyen, Grade 9, brought home a gold medal after winning the male 45-kilogram division at the BC School Sports Wrestling Provincials, on Feb. 24 to 26 in Vancouver.

Though initially nervous going into the final, Nguyen said he felt the jitters fade away after seeing his opponent. In less than two minutes Nguyen had his adversary pinned and was announced the winner.

“I jumped to my dad and gave him a big hug,” the gold-medalist said.

Teammate Mary-Jane Rojeski, Grade 9, won a bronze in the female 75-kilogram division.

Also making a podium finish, to qualify for tryouts to represent B.C. at the national level, was Sarah Clarke, Grade 9, who placed 5th in the female 54-kilogram division.

“[I] genuinely could not be any prouder of the athletes we took down south,” Dane Waldal, team coach, told The Northern View.

Nguyen, Rojeski and Clarke’s top finishes qualified the three for a chance to represent the provincial team at the national level later this year, after heading to the try-outs in April.

“It’s a very impressive accomplishment for a small program, in a small town, to get through all the craziness we’ve had with COVID and still manage to compete at a very high level. To win at [that] very high level is an absolute testament to how dedicated our athletes are,” Waldal said.

To kick off the entire tournament, Hyla McQuaid, Grade 11, won the first match of the event. Though McQuaid didn’t make it to the podium, her performance showed off what the Prince Rupert team was capable of.

“That definitely helped get the other kids a little loosened up and ready to go and a little more confident,” the coach said.

Finally, Tyler Harris, Grade 9, battled through a difficult 90-kilogram draw facing older and more experienced Grade 11 and 12 athletes. He managed to win one of his three matches.

“He wrestled very hard, competed very well and represented the community as good as we could have hoped,” Waldal said.

The performance and quality of the team is a stark contrast to the previous wrestling teams Prince Rupert has brought in past years, the coach said.

“Last time we were down at provincials, we were essentially an afterthought,” Waldal said.

At the 2020 provincial tournament, the Prince Rupert wrestlers were eliminated “almost immediately.”

“In a small community like this, to have a turnaround where not only were we able to pick up some wins and pins and get into the top half of the bracket. The fact that we were able to put three kids on the podium, collect a gold medal and a bronze medal is absolutely mind-blowing, “Waldal said. “It’s really a testament on how focussed the kids were with all the distractions this season [and] how hard they worked to achieve their goals. It really gets us excited for the future of the program.”

Next up for the wrestlers will be to continue training the to B.C. try-outs, but also for the BC Summer Games being held in Prince George in July.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert wrestler brings home gold medal at championships

READ MORE: Prince Rupert high school wrestling team hauls in half-dozen gold medals

Norman Galimski | Journalist
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