Despite an unusual year, the Alberni Valley Wrestling Club was still able to gather virtually for a celebration of their new graduates last week.
James Messenger, president of Alberni Valley Wrestling Club, said on Wednesday, March 31 that he wanted the night to be about celebrating.
“Rather than focusing on what we can’t do, I want to focus on what we can do,” he said.
The event was the 43rd annual year-end event for the wrestling club, and the second one hosted via Zoom. Although the club was not able to participate in any competitions this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, five graduating wrestlers received a send-off from the club: Andrew Audet, Mason Bodnar, Brett Lehtonen, Paige Maher and Bobby McKenzie.
“In so many ways, what you’ve experienced in this—your Grade 12 year—isn’t fair,” Messenger told the grads on March 31. “There are many things you have been robbed of. But in life, just as in wrestling, when you get taken down, you have to get back up. Often we learn more from our losses than our victories.”
The five graduates shared their stories of their favourite wrestling memories and thanked their coaches over the years.
“This is not how I pictured my time as a high school athlete ending, and accepting and dealing with that has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through,” said Maher. “But no matter how difficult things got, I was able to push through and keep moving foward because of the lessons and the strength that wrestling has given me.”
McKenzie, Bodnar and Maher each received a Knights of the Armada bursary and plaque, which is presented to graduating wrestlers who have been a part of the program through their entire high school career.
McKenzie and Maher both received scholarships from the Educated Wrestler Society, started by former Alberni Valley wrestling coach Walter Taylor. To receive a scholarship, athletes were asked to demonstrate an appreciation and integration of wrestling with art history, religion and world history.