Competitive wrestling isn't for everybody – but those that are hooked, are often hooked big time.
That much was more than evident as the elite of the northern Ontario wrestling community gathered at St Charles College on Friday for the NOSSA championships, this despite the fact that yet another “snow day” shut down pretty much all other high school activities in the north.
“I think it's one of the best sports that I have ever done in my life,” noted Collège Notre-Dame silver medal winner Liam Leclair (77 kg). “You have cardio, you have flexibility, you have speed. You have all of those qualities that you need in other sports.” In fairness, his current passion is not terribly dissimilar to the athletic pastimes that have kept him busy through much of his youth.
“I have been doing a lot of martial arts since I was four,” said Leclair. “Muay Thai, Jiu-jitsu, judo, a little bit of karate too, so I come in having some background. The cardio, all around, is really high, in all of these, but Jiu-jitsu is more like wrestling, but with submissions and stuff like that.”
“I can use a lot of the same positions, like take-downs and stuff, for wrestling.” Still, the fact is that one need not have compiled any kind of a martial arts resumé in order to be lured by the spell of wrestling.
“I didn't do many sports before this, I wasn't that motivated in school,” said 61 kg champion Jarell McLean of St Charles College. “A buddy of mine introduced me to wrestling, and I've been hooked ever since. I've had so many great opportunities, I've grown so much as a person. I love this sport.”
Currently in grade 11 and completing just his second year of wrestling, McLean added a club wrestling mix to his timetable this year. Now, he's reaping the benefits. “I just have a lot more confidence, and I've been able to know what they (opponents) are doing, have a sense of what type of athlete they are, where the strength of their body is. I've learned a lot.”
Few, however, can match the rapid progression of Tyanna Soucy. A surprise gold medal winner in her first ever season taking to the mat last winter, the soon-to-be 18 year old (she will celebrate her birthday on February 19th) was acclaimed as 79 kg champion at both the cities and NOSSA, having shed a little more weight after competing in the 83 kg division in 2018.
Not that she is all that worried about the lack of actual match experience as she readies for a return trip to OFSAA in Ottawa from March 4th to the 6th. “I feel really prepared, mostly because I am in the gym every day training,” said Soucy. “I've still been doing cardio, but there's been more strength training.”
“I've also been out of town pretty much every single weekend with club wrestling, so the girls I see when I go to tournaments are the girls I am going to see when I go to OFSAA.” To boot, her success has not subsided a whole lot in her sophomore campaign, as the Marymount Regals senior captured silver at a pair of recent provincial competitions.
“I've learned that throwing isn't always the best option at first, learned to be faster on my feet, learned how to react to certain situations,” she said. “Instead of doing one move to try and end the match, I have learned how to use a chain of moves and work with it.”
That said, year two, on the heels of an exceptional opening entry into the sport, has not come without its share of challenges. “It's only my second year and people are expecting a lot from me,” said Soucy. “It took a toll on me for a little bit. I had to learn that it's OK to lose, that losing is a learning experience that will help bring you to the next level.”
A member of the Sudbury Regional Wrestling Club, working with coaches Patrick Quenville and Jason Aulenbach, Soucy is hoping to take her skills to the next level this fall as a member of the Western Mustangs, though she has not yet completely ruled out York or Lakehead.
Those decisions are still a couple of years away for the afore-mentioned Liam Leclair and his CND teammates. Despite fielding a team of just three wrestlers, it's hard to argue with the “quality over quantity” approach the Alouettes enjoyed on Friday. Joining Leclair on the podium were both Nicholas Bouchard (gold – 54 kg) and Jacob Laquerre (silver – 83 kg).
Also in grade ten, along with Leclair, Bouchard was pleased with a turn in fortunes in year two of his high school wrestling career. “There was one guy that beat me last year, but this was kind of a revenge match and I beat him this year,” he said. “I didn't really have enough experience last year. I shot, but I didn't really commit to it enough.”
The eldest of the three at 17 years of age and in grade 11, Jacob Laquerre seems to have found his athletic niche. “As a kid, I never really played a lot of sports, especially with teams” he said. “But with this sport, I found it really interesting, because it was individual. It's a great sport, really gets your cardio going.”
Despite battling a nagging cold, Laquerre finished second only to Gavin Smith of Superior Heights, an opponent that he had not met before. “If you haven't seen him wrestle in his first matches, before yours, then you just try and do your best, do your moves that you know that you are good at.”
“He (Smith) wrestles a lot like me,” added Laquerre. “He does a lot of leg shots, instead of a lot of throws. It's a little bit like wrestling yourself.”
Following is a complete listing of all SDSSAA athletes that garnered first or second place finishes, earning a berth in OFSAA:Girls Divisions
41 kg - 1st place – Mia Chartrand (Lasalle)
51 kg - 2nd place – Allie Weiler (Marymount)
57 kg - 1st place - Brady Martin (Marymount)
64 kg - 2nd place – Zoe Chartrand (Horizon)
72 kg - 2nd place – Alexi Lamb (Marymount)
77 kg - 1st place – Tyanna Soucy (Marymount)
115 kg - 1st place – Angelina Lam (Marymount)
51 kg - 1st place – Jesse Legault (Confederation)
54 kg - 1st place – Nicholas Bouchard (Notre-Dame)
57 kg - 2nd place – Bradley Laurin (Lasalle)
61 kg - 1st place – Jarell McLean (St Charles)
64 kg - 1st place – Cooper Fontaine (Lo-Ellen)
72 kg - 2nd place – Ryan Marcotte (Lasalle)
77 kg - 2nd place – Liam Leclair (Notre-Dame)
83 kg - 2nd place – Jacob Laquerre (Notre-Dame)
89 kg - 1st place – Barack Tchashenyi (Lasalle); 2nd place – Cole Ruddy (Confederation)
95 kg - 2nd place – Ethan Pilon (Lasalle)
In terms of team aggregates, the Marymount Regals captured the women's NOSSA banner, while the Lasalle Lancers finished second to St Mary's of Sault Ste Marie in the men's race, as well as in the combined totals.