Five Prince Rupert wrestlers have pinned their placements to compete at the Western Canada Age Class Wrestling Championships, in Burnaby on Feb. 5 and 6.
The tournament will be the first since 2020 for the Muscle Panda MMA wrestling club, Dane Waldal, martial arts head coach, said.
“[It] is a fairly big deal tournament,” Waldal. “They’re super pumped up.”
The event will be hosted at the campus of Simon Fraser University and is organized into three age classes: under 17, 19 and 20 age groups.
Hyla McQuaid will compete in the U19 as well as the U20 female division. Tyson Nguyen, Sarah Clarke, Mary-Jane Rojeski, and Tyler Harris are all competing in the U17 divisions and have also signed up for the U20, Waldal said.
Commonly, wrestling events are categorized by weight and not by age where younger competitors go up against older athletes. This is how they usually gain experience, the head coach explained.
“At the age class tournament, they break it down. Now you’re competing against people your own size and your own age,” Waldal said.
Since the tournament is being hosted at a university, as well as holding a U20 category, the Prince Rupert athletes will have a chance to show off what they got in front of higher-level coaches.
“They’re super jazzed about it,” Waldal said.
The event will also be an opportunity to prepare for upcoming competitions such as the BC Summer Games and national tournaments.
In the lead-up to the tournament, the club’s wrestlers have organized extra practices and have been helping coach their younger peer groups in order to keep their minds on wrestling, Waldal said.
“They’re begging me for extra workouts and all the extra stuff they can do,” he said.
The team’s travel expenses to attend the tournament were lowered with the help from a former national wrestling champion, Jason Hoang, the coach said. Hoang was able to acquire discount airfare for the team.
The team was able to spend less than $500 to get their athletes to and from Vancouver, where normally such a trip would cost about $1,000.
Travel expenses are the most frustrating obstacle to overcome for athletics in the North. It’s not a big problem finding officials, coaches or venues, Waldal said. However, if they hold all the major competing in Vancouver, they are going to need financial help from the overarching sport organization to travel to them.
“That’s always our biggest thing as we’re trying to advocate for more sport up here in the North,” he said. “The bigger your team gets, the more costly it gets.”
With files from K-J Millar
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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