Sentinel’s Elise Verdin pins South Island Distance Education’s Kiana Shew to the mat during the finals of the Alberni Invitational at ADSS on Jan. 24.

Sentinel’s Elise Verdin pins South Island Distance Education’s Kiana Shew to the mat during the finals of the Alberni Invitational at ADSS on Jan. 24.

Alberni Invitational a success at ADSS

Returning to ADSS a good choice, said organizer Tom McEvay.

The 31st annual Alberni Invitational made a triumphant return to Alberni District Secondary School this weekend.

“I think it was a great success, we feel very, very good about what we set out to accomplish here which was to showcase our sport at the high school and our community,” said Tom McEvay.

Alberni wrestlers made a strong showing across the board at the tournament.

E.J. Dunn boys cleaned up in the school boys division with Darien Van Ingen and Dean Fyfe taking home first and second place respectively in the 44kg category, Noah Stampeen placing first in the 56kg category, Jayden Iversen in the 63kg division and Jace Clayton in the 78kg category. Their combined wins got them 93 points in the division, more than twice what second place Carson Graham Secondary received.

E.J. Dunn also took home top points in the school girls division with 33 points thanks to a first place finishes by Kylea Anderson in the 76kg category and Kyla McAuley in the 70kg category as well as second place finishes in the 39kg, 50kg, 56kg, 61kg and 69kg categories.

ADSS’ Nolan Badovinac took home both first place in the 84kg category and most outstanding wrestler in the juvenile men’s division.

“I thought the tournament went fairly well for me,” Badovinac said. “I still have lots of stuff to work on but overall I feel like I wrestled fairly well.”

This was the 17-year-old’s seventh Alberni Invitational.

“I remember my first year I was 3-20 and so far this year I’m 20-0. It’s been something I’ve put a lot of work into and it’s finally starting to show results, it’s really rewarding.”

Being  part of the Alberni Wrestling Club has had impacts off the mat too.

“Through wrestling and through the wrestling club I’ve learned a ton of leadership skills, working with the community, working as a group. I’ve been coordinating in the summer to help with the fundraisers and that’s taught me a lot about working with people and just how to run an organization. It’s taught me a ton about community service and giving back.”

With many students like Badovinac who continue with the program through the transition between middle school and high school, McEvay sees the club as an important support in their lives.

“That transition is often where you see kids who are at risk fall through the cracks… by having programs like this where there’s an automatic bridge, when that kid from Neill or Dunn goes to ADSS I believe very strongly in my heart that the transition is not as significant.

“They already feel a part of the high school and I think the school system needs to look for more of those opportunities where there’s a bridge.”

With a club slogan of “you can check out but you can never leave,” Badovinac plans to stay involved even as he hopes to progress his wrestling career at Simon Fraser University.

“I’ve been talking with them about scholarships and hopefully I’ll continue on then next year but I’ll still be giving back to my community, giving back to my club  because they’ve definitely helped me a lot.”

He won’t be the first wrestling club alumni to stay in touch.

Former Olympic wrestler and current firefighter Travis Cross comes out when he can and many of the teams are coached by alumni.

Brad Goodman, who graduated from ADSS in 1992, still remembers his days in the wrestling club fondly.

“For amateur sports this is the program. One of the things Tom does that’s amazing is that you always feel like you’re a part of this program,” Goodman said.

While Goodman currently runs Natural Edge Fitness in Nanaimo he still applies what he learned in his Alberni wrestling club days.

“A lot of the stuff that I do, the foundation of it, is based on this program. You learn a lot about leadership…it’s a sense of confidence because when you’re doing it, it’s all you. It’s a team so you have this incredible team atmosphere but it’s also you. The effort you put in comes out on the mat.”