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Grapplers who are going places at Ron Preston Championships

Nobody was touching the Lasalle Lancers at the Ron Preston SDSSAA Wrestling Championships last week.

Capturing the respective banners in both the boys and girls divisions, coach Chris Mask and company easily walked away with the aggregate title, their total score of 119 points nearly triple that of the second place St Charles College Cardinals (44).

With almost twenty competitors in their midst, the Lancers were the primary beneficiary of walk-through gold medal victories, most notably in the weight classes on both extremes of the bell curve, where numbers are tougher to come by.

That is precisely why the likes of Mia Chartrand (gold - 44 kg) are so excited about progressing through both NOSSA (Feb 21st in Elliot Lake) and OFSAA (March 2nd - 4th in Sault Ste Marie), as well as tackling the club wrestling circuit, where the depth of competition explodes.

"I'm wrestling more people this year, so I've been able to try new moves, practice with more people," said the 15 year old grade ten student at Lasalle, now in her second year with the sport. "It's been better this year. I'm learning different techniques, getting more experience than last year."

There is little doubt that Chartrand has already come a long way from her initial introduction to the sport, blossoming into a young athlete who is anxious to put her learnings of the 2019 OFSAA Championship to the test.

"My mom is the one who told me I should try it," she said. "I'm very open to opportunities; I just wanted to give it a shot. No matter what, there is always going to be someone who is better than you. You have to have an open mind and try and be happy with the fact that you are trying your hardest and giving it your all."

"I have to do what makes me happy, and wrestling makes me happy."

Joining Chartrand in the brigade of very happy first place finishers from Lasalle were Chloe Poitras-Paulin (51 kg), Keyna Kewais (83 kg), Annabelle Newbury (115 kg), Cengiz Colgecen (47.5 kg), Jacob Gill (51 kg), Seth Dumais-Armitage (89 kg), Cohen Newton (95 kg) and Drake Cryderman (130 kg).

While the Lancers have enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years - this marks the seventh consecutive boys banner for the New Sudbury school, but first ever on the girls side - other institutions are also making in-roads, including the Horizon Aigles.

A newcomer to the sport just over two months ago, Miguel Pitre (gold - 77 kg) was one of three champions produced by the Val Caron school (Drake Marleau - 72 kg; Zoe Chartrand - 64 kg). Yet another 15 year old grade ten competitor, the age grouping of choice, seemingly, within this crowd, Pitre entered the sport with more of a "big picture" approach, hoping to complement a current pastime where he has already enjoyed success.

"I've been doing martial arts, kick-boxing and kung fu, for six to seven years," said Pitre. "I picked up wrestling so that I would have more knowledge about different fighting styles. My martial arts background helped me with that."

True, though it also presented some challenges, where the two sports differ, from a technical precision standpoint. "I had to break some habits," he added. "With martial arts, I am always standing up straight, with good posture, ready to punch with my fist or strike with my feet. In wrestling, you're low in your stance."

"You always want to be lower than your opponent."

As for the keys to emerging victorious from the round robin pool of four wrestlers, Pitre admitted to relying on some tried and true attacks, while also unveiling something new. "It was mostly the way that I took down opponents, with the double leg and landing them on their backs," he said.

"But I tried something different, the ankle lace today, and it went well."

Champion of the six-man 64 kg division and also in his second year on the mats, Peter Guerra of Lo-Ellen can relate to the development that Pitre has displayed. "I just feel like I know more this year," stated the grade 10 student-athlete. "Last year, I didn't know how to react to some things, how to deal with certain wrestlers."

"I just want to become a better wrestler, in general, and working with my great coaches, Sheldon (Burton) and Ben (Hotson), they teach me a plethora of what to do, how to defend, how to attack. I can see myself evolve as a wrestler."

While it is true that the weight classes automatically allows for some similarities between adversaries, the reality is that the top to bottom gap of those classes will also create a bit of a different look, depending on the opposing wrestler.

"Shorter guys are a little more muscular, so you have to take your time with them a little more," said Guerra, whose brother Matthew earned bronze in the 67.5 kg bracket. "But with the lankier guys, they have more reach to grab your legs, or grab whatever they want to grab. It's about knowing who you are wrestling and how you need to wrestle them."

Remaining city champions, on the boys side, included:

54 kg - Jesse Legault - Confederation Secondary
57.5 kg - Nate Randell - Confederation Secondary
61 kg - Jarell MacLean - St Charles College
67.5 kg - Luciano Gianfranscesco - St Charles College
83 kg - Jacob Laquerre - College Notre-Dame

As for the young women, four gold medal winners round out the list:

54 kg - Allie Weiler - Marymount Academy
57.5 kg - Kamillia Myers - St Charles College
61 kg - Naomi Robinson - Lo-Ellen Park Secondary
67.5 kg - Ella Train - Confederation Secondary

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