The return of the Alberni Invitational Wrestling Tournament was a success, according to organizers.
The 38th annual tournament took place at the Alberni District Secondary School gym from Friday, Feb. 3 to Saturday, Feb. 4. On the mats, the host team finished third in both the junior and senior boys divisions. The senior boys were led by the gold medal performances of Alex McKenzie and Grant Coulthart. The junior boys were led by gold medalist Nolan Cross and finalist Grady Miller.
After going undefeated in the boys 57-kilogram division, McKenzie was also named Most Outstanding Senior Boys Wrestler.
Overall, ADSS had 14 wrestlers place in the top six: Nolan Cross (first in 38-kg junior boys), Alex McKenzie (first in 57-kg senior boys), Grant Coulthart (first in 110-kg senior boys), Grady Miller (second in 57-kg junior boys), Kelcie Sam (second in 47-kg senior girls), Paige George (third in 47-kg junior girls), Danika Currie (third in 54-kg junior girls), Marcus Newton (third in 41-kg junior boys), Gavin Fong (third in 51-kg junior boys), Sage Dziekan-Gwilt (third in 69-kg senior girls), Evan McLeod (third in 63-kg senior boys), Seth Romeril (fourth in 51-kg junior boys), Tanner Evans (fourth in 66-kg junior boys) and Carter Duperron (fourth in 74-kg senior boys).
Coach Travis Cross says that ADSS has a “predominantly young team” this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wrestling club had to shut down for almost two years, which made it difficult to attract new wrestlers.
“They’ve shown that they can compete at this level and they did really well,” said Cross at the end of the tournament. “We had a lot of good results, but also good matches where they were in tough fights and they didn’t give up. We can see the progression they’ve had in the last few weeks. As coaches, we’re really pleased with how our athletes did.”
The Alberni Invitational is a well-known and well-respected wrestling tournament, said Cross, mostly because of the volunteers who make it special.
Tournament co-chair James Messenger says the invitational is the wrestling club’s “premier event.” There was a bit of nervousness at the beginning, said Messenger, because this was the first invitational in almost three years, but the event ran smoothly overall.
“It was nothing short of amazing,” said Messenger. “Some of our new coaches and volunteers stepped up in a really big way.”
Messenger said attendance was just under 300 wrestlers from the Grade 8 to the Grade 12 division.
The 2023 Alberni Invitational also had a small community/club division for elementary-aged athletes where 40 wrestlers from the Alberni Junior Club program participated. The Alberni team took first place, beating out the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club. Gold medalists were Alex Edgar, Andromeda Brown, David Chandler, Emma Anker, Logan Albert, Mackenzie Newton and Samantha Chandler.
Next up, Port Alberni wrestlers will be headed to the Island championships in Cowichan. This is a qualification for the provincial championships, so Cross says a number of wrestlers will be looking to capture medals.
“This tournament was a good indication of how we should do at the Islands, and I think we should qualify many weights for the provincials,” said Cross.