The Alberni School Wrestling Invitational, long regarded as one of the premier wrestling tournaments in the country, is ready to go again. The 38th Annual Alberni Armada Invitational Wrestling Tournament will take place Feb. 3–4 in the ADSS gyms.
In an effort to connect more closely with their roots at the high school, the Invitational was moved back to ADSS in 2015 and it has proven a great success.
The tournament started in 1980 and has run every year except the four years the local wrestling group hosted the BC High School Championships. Excluding the years cancelled due to the COVID-19 epidemic that means 42 straight years that this dedicated group of volunteers have run a major wrestling tournament in the Alberni Valley. The event was held at the old ADSS on Burde Street from 1982 to 1994 before moving to Glenwood Centre in 1995 and then the Alberni Valley Multiplex in 2003, as it got so large.
“We are extremely proud of the history and traditions our wrestling program has established over the past 42 years,” tournament co-chair James Messenger said. “No other wrestling program in BC can boast that they have run 42 major tournaments and many would be happy to have done it once.
“This is our 38th Invitational to go along with five provincials and it only happens because of the amazing volunteer spirit in our community,” he said. “I am honoured to be helping lead an event so rich in history. ” Messenger is co-chairing the invitational with Mike Roberts and Jeannette Badovinac.
Messenger continued, “The Invitational is an important annual event not just for our wrestlers and coaches but for all our wrestling community. It is an opportunity for our alumni, past volunteers, parents and anyone involved in our program to come celebrate with us. Come and take in the action, support our current wrestlers, join us for some socializing and visit the incredible Alberni District Secondary School.
“We are very excited to showcase our local wrestlers at ADSS as this is their program.”
Action at the 38th Invitational begins on Friday, Feb. 3 with morning weigh-ins for boys and girls in the high school division. At 9:30 a.m. Friday there will be a dual meet between the ADSS wrestling team, Vancouver College, and an all-star team from North Vancouver schools. The teams will do battle for the ceremonial “McEvay Post.”
Official opening ceremonies for the Invitational are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. Tournament action gets underway at 2 p.m. and runs to at least 8:30 p.m. that evening all at ADSS. Organizers expect the “very exciting” semi-finals to start around 7 p.m. Friday. There is no gate cost; spectators are asked to arrive early.
The Alberni Invitational tournament action will start again Saturday, Feb. 4 at 8:30 a.m. with the preliminaries continuing until about 10:30 a.m. Matches for fifth and sixth as well as third and fourth places in each weight class will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Saturday will also feature a community/club division for athletes in Grades 4–7 in the B Gym. That division will start around 9:30 a.m. and will wrestle to completion. The high school finals are scheduled to start close to 12:30 p.m. and will run until close to 4 p.m. Again, on Saturday admission is free but space will be limited.
“Not only do local fans have an opportunity for some great competition at the Invitational, they also will once again see some competitive Alberni wrestlers,” Messenger said.
The ADSS boys team is led by a core group of Grade 11 and 12 wrestlers who have persevered through the last two years, and a great group of up-and-coming Grade 9 students.
This will be the largest high school tournament thus far and ADSS is looking for a top-3 finish. They will likely battle it out with more than 40 other schools for the team titles in these age divisions. These teams could include Vancouver College, WJ Mouat, Maple Ridge and Island powerhouse Queen Margaret’s School.