MVP of the Week: Leaving it on the mat

MVP of the Week: Leaving it on the mat

Tatum Acker turned her newfound passion for wrestling into a zone championship

Wrestling is a battle of wills.

There is technique and stamina involved, but ultimately, the sport is about one athlete trying to submit another using nothing but their physical strength and desire to win.

Tatum Acker has both of these in spades. The 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) rolled on a mat for the first time in November, but quickly discovered that she was passionate about the pursuit. Four short months later, she is the Northwest zone champion for the 75 kg weight class after winning her first competitive match.

“It feels great to have won,” she said. “You don’t know what it’s going to feel like competing.

“Practice is practice, but when you’re actually there it’s much different.”

READ MORE: MVP Of The Week – Breaking boards and barriers

Acker participated in a number of different sports growing up before her transition to wrestling. She took jazz, ballet, acro and modern dance classes from Grades 7 – 9. Acker said she enjoyed the social aspect of dance, but time commitment — she would sometimes have to dance for a few hours a day, five or six days per week — was something she didn’t always enjoy.

“I wanted to be able to get a job and do other things,” she said.

After giving up dance, Acker tried her hand at team sports like basketball and rugby. While she only played for half a season, she said the physical nature of rugby appealed to her and she enjoyed her experience on the field.

“I liked how aggressive it was,” she said. “The tackling part really appealed to me.”

At the beginning of her Grade 11 year, Acker was introduced to wrestling by Dane Waldal, a new teacher at CHSS who was excited to begin a grappling program at the school.

The school’s first practice drew approximately 40 students who were curious to find out what amateur wrestling is about. The group began that practice with a series of movement drills that included somersaults, cartwheels and handstands. These exercises, while seemingly strange, are standard wrestling movements designed to develop agility and body awareness.

Acker found that her background in dance prepared her well for her first wrestling class, as she had already developed the mobility, core strength and flexibility required to complete the movements without too much difficulty.

After the warmup, the group divided into partners where they practiced positioning and using leverage and technique to get their opponents off balance. Acker said at first, she was conscious about trying not to hurt the person she was practising with but eventually it began to feel more normal.

Of the original group that came to that first practice, Acker was one of a dozen students that continued to come consistently to hone and improve their skills.

“It intrigued me,” she said. “I knew I could get better at it, and I knew it was something I can do.”

Waldal said Acker displayed the characteristic unique to all people who excel at wrestling, the desire and drive to overcome a challenge.

“What I find with good wrestlers is that those kinds of adverse situations are what get them more excited,” he said. “It gets them more excited and more focused. Tatum definitely has that trait.”

By the time zone championships came around, Acker had put in hours of time on the mat, but was still nervous about her first official match.

“There was a lot of adrenaline going into it,” she said.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert’s ice maker

In a wrestling match, each competitor is awarded points for gaining an advantageous position over their opponent. They can do this by pinning their opponent on their back, taking their opponent down, getting on their back or a variety of other methods. Acker’s opponent was slightly larger than her, so her objective was to stay calm, not rush and take advantage of any openings given to her.

Acker said she doesn’t remember a whole lot of what happened, but she remembers hearing Waldal calling out instructions.

Eventually, she was able to execute an arm drag — a technique that involves pulling on an opponents arm to close distance and attempt a take down — which led to her scoring the points to win the match.

“I was relieved, but I was so happy,” she said. “I was so tired. It felt like all the energy out of my body was gone.

“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to work on my cardio after this.’”

Having tasted some success, Acker said she is eager to get back on the wrestling mat to prepare for next season. She said her goals are to be in shape and ready to compete for the season by the time the school year starts.

Hopefully the same drive and determination that won her the zone championship will propel her to the provincial championships.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Charles Hays RainmakersMVP of the Week

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


MVP of the Week: Leaving it on the mat

MVP of the Week: Leaving it on the mat

Just Posted

Flights are to resume to Prince Rupert and Sandspit airports under an Air Canada and federal government $5.9 billion agreement that was reached on April 12. A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
$5.879 billion agreement between Air Canada and Fed’s will assist YPR in re-opening

Prince Rupert Regional Airport to reopen flights by June 1st, if not earlier

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Prince Rupert City Council approved the purchase of computer chipped recycling bins on April 12. A Penticton garbage truck lifts a new bin. (Western News photo)
Big Brother to help with the garbage – computer chipped recycling bins report your bylaw infractions

They report, but will they sort — recycle bins to cost Prince Rupert $564,850

Pembina Prince Rupert Terminal celebrated the opening of operations on April 12 in a virtual online ceremony with President and CEO Mick Dilger and Manager of Communications and Media Affair Tasha Cadotte commemorating the ribbon-cutting. (Photo: Supplied)
Pembina celebrates opening of operations in Prince Rupert

A virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorates LPG export facility on Watson Island

Pembina Prince Rupert Terminal shipped its first vessel full of liquefied petroleum gas on April 9, just less than three years after breaking ground at the re-purposed pulp mill site on Watson Island.
Pembina ships first vessel of LPG out of Prince Rupert

More than $12 million spent to repurpose Watson Island for the LPG export facility

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Indigenous Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)
Grey whale off Vancouver Island develops lesions after being tagged, researchers monitor its condition

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Most Read