Perhaps it's the close proximity that is maintained, throughout an entire day-long meet, between the very same athletes that are adversaries in competition. Perhaps it is simply the reality that with smaller numbers in a sport that often flies under the radar, it is paramount that those who are passionate about it maintain a tighter bond.
Whatever the reason, there is clearly a somewhat unique feel to the environment when one gathers together the local wrestling folks for an event such as “The Boot”.
“The community of wrestling is so much different compared to other sports,” noted 17 year old Marymount Academy senior Brady Martin. “It's almost more of a family. You know everyone at every meet, you're a lot closer to everybody. It's kind of a culture shock, when you first join wrestling, compared to other sports teams.”
“It's such an individual sport, but it's so team oriented.”
It's been my observation, over years of covering this early December high-school wrestling tradition, that the athletes that partake in this activity are among the most interesting and intriguing characters in the local sports scene, embracing the personalities that can make for such wonderful interviews.
Yes, there are certainly some that characterize the traditional stereotype of the sporting genre that wrestling would seem to attract. “I'm kind of an aggressive person,” acknowledged the above-stated Martin, with a laugh. “I'm actually a rower as well, but that wasn't enough for me to get my aggression out.”
“At (flag) football, you can't just push people over, so wrestling is kind of an outlet for me to get some aggression out. I just decided on a whim to try it, and I really liked it.”
And while Martin, for one, is thankful for the welcoming atmosphere that the wrestling community provided as she first participated in her new endeavour in the fall of 2017, she also knows that there are times when her competitive nature clearly rises to the forefront.
“I like to say that I'm a different person on the mat than I am off the mat,” she said. “Off the mat, I help them and encourage them. But as soon as I am on the mat, I get in my zone and don't think about who it is I am wrestling. I think about what I'm doing, I think about my technique. It's almost like I am wrestling a blank face. I try not and put a person to the body I am wrestling.”
A second entry point for first-time wrestler tends to come via other sports that bear at least a vague resemblance to the one which would bring together a grouping almost one hundred strong at Sudbury Secondary School a week or so ago. “I was in korean martial arts, and this was another combat sport, so I figured, why not?,” noted 15 year old grade 10 St Charles College student Luciano Gianfrancesco.
Like others who have come before him, the fourth year wrestler (he started in elementary school) realized fairly quickly that not all elements of the martial arts were transferable to his interest in grappling. “There are trips and flips that are similar, but you can't throw punches and there are no kicks,” explained Gianfrancesco.
“You can't roll to your back, or you get pinned. The scoring system is kind of weird. And you can't put pressure against joints, to keep it safe.” As a high-school freshman, Gianfrancesco came up just shy of capturing a berth at OFSAA, earning bronze at NOSSA. His goal this year is to take the next step.
“I'm working on my cardio, helping me to keep up with everyone,” he said. “And my technique, just getting better at everything. You don't have to be extra strong to do this, you just need to know what you're doing.”
Talk to those who know Sudbury Secondary grade 11 wrestler Noah Lalonde, and they will suggest that the sport might be the best thing to happen to the well-spoken young man. Now in his third year as a member of the North Stars, the 16 year-old is looking to build on a sophomore season that offered a surprisingly pleasant degree of success.
“I made it to OFSAA last year,” said Lalonde. “It was just my second year, and usually people don't go until the very end of their school. I was very proud of myself for doing that. I couldn't have done it without my coaches, who put in hours and hours with me. I'm so grateful for them, always hyping me up before my matches.”
The trek to Windsor for high school provincials last March provided an experience that Lalonde is not likely to soon forget. “I got to see people in my category that I don't usually wrestle, and learn from them,” he said. “I also got to see how the bigger competitions work, and not to let it bother you because you're in an arena, don't focus on the numbers, just worry about the match.”
Despite all that, the biggest value from the sport lies in helping to build the type of person that can prosper in all aspects of their personal life, according to Lalonde. “People are nervous to come out and do it,” he said. “They think it's uncomfortable. But once they break that mental barrier, it's so good. I've seen kids on our team who came out and were so shy, and now they're talking to everybody, coming out to practices, getting better, and having a great time doing it.”
Following is a complete rundown of all first place finishers from the meet in question:Girls Divisions
41 kg - Mia Chartrand (Lasalle)
51 kg - Zoe Julien (Thériault)
54 kg - Sheila Eshquib (Lasalle)
61 kg - Trisha Baylosis (Sby Secondary)
64 kg - Melissa Morrish (Thériault)
67.5 kg - Zoe Chartrand (Horizon)
72 kg - Isabelle Bedard (Thériault)
77 kg - Tyanna Soucy (Marymount)
115 kg - Angelina Lam (Marymount)
51 kg - Nicholas Bouchard (Notre-Dame)
54 kg - Brodie Kane (Sby Secondary)
57.5 kg - Peter Guerra (Lo-Ellen)
61 kg - Isaac Belliveu (Lasalle)
64 kg - Cooper Fontaine (Lo-Ellen)
67.5 kg - Christian Yule (Lasalle)
72 kg - Brayden Wilcox (Sby Secondary)
77 kg - Liam Leclair (Notre-Dame)
83 kg - Jacob Laquerre (Notre-Dame)
89 kg - Baraka Tchashenyi (Lasalle)
95 kg - Ethan Pilon (Lasalle)
130 kg - Drake Cryderman (Lasalle)
While the Lasalle Lancers would lead the way in terms of the overall number of aggregate points, as a team, with 100 (followed by Sudbury Secondary (58), Marymount (46) and Notre-Dame (42)), it was the Alouettes who would capture "The Boot", awarded to the team with the highest average point total when factoring in the total number of wrestlers which represented the school.
Collège Notre-Dame averaged 8.4 points per athlete, with Sudbury Secondary (7.25), Lasalle (5.26), Marymount (5.11) and Horizon (5) all in hot pursuit.