Wrestlers from AW Neill, EJ Dunn and Alberni District Secondary schools travelled to Duncan to compete in the Cougar Invitational on Saturday. Wrestlers from all three schools had a strong showing at this tournament, which featured athletes from all over the Island and some schools from the Lower Mainland.
Teams competed in four divisions: junior boys and girls and senior boys and girls.
The ADSS Armada won the senior boys division. “We have a very strong and experienced group of Grade 12s leading our team,” ADSS head coach John McDonald said.
“Russell David, Nolan Badovinac, Johannes Kulich, Jarred Beckett and Dean Leyland have the potential to place at this year’s BC High School Championships. Not surprisingly they did very well at this tournament. They have been working hard at practice and it is great to see their dedication, not only this season, but over the last six years paying off,” he said.
Senior Boys Russell David (58kg) and Nolan Badovinac (84kg) both looked strong going undefeated in their weight classes to claim gold medals. Johannes Kulich lost the final to a tough opponent from Victoria to finish with a silver at 69 kilograms. Jarred Beckett (66kg) and Dean Leyland (84kg) claimed bronze medals in the Senior Division. Grade 10 Heavyweight Trenton Vanderkooi, making a return to wrestling after sitting out Grade 9, finished fourth and added valuable team points to help ADSS finish first.
“Our graduating group is strong but the future also looks bright,” forecasted John McDonald. “In the Junior Boys Division our three schools finished first, second and third.”
Neill Middle School took top honors winning the team title for Grades 7 – 9 wrestlers. The Neill Talons were led by the gold medal performances of Seth Price (38kg) and Owen Spencer (45kg). “Owen and Seth were in two of the tougher junior weight classes, but they dominated the competition. Seth and Owen push themselves at practice and also take opportunities to challenge themselves and practice with the older more experienced wrestlers at club twice a week. I was happy to see them successful here today,” commented Neill Coach Jen Johnson.
Neill Middle School had three other wrestlers place. Gerrard Graham (3rd at 41kg), Dalton Hagen (4th at 41kg), and Scott Coulthart (5th at 70kg).
Despite only having a handful of wrestlers eligible to compete in the Junior Division, ADSS boys managed a second place finish. Isaac McDonald (51kg) and Daniel Spencer (63kg) looked strong in route to winning gold medals. Shane Leeper lost the final match of the 54kg weight class to a strong opponent from Saltspring Island to finish second while Ravi Manhas finished 5th in a competitive 38kg weight class. Grade 9 wrestler Aaron Badovinac was at the tournament refereeing but is unable to compete for a month as a result of a hand injury.
Rounding out the team placings in the Junior Boys Division was the Seahawks from EJ Dunn. EJ Dunn boys had seven male wrestlers place. William Merry (1st at 100kg), Jarod Gagnon (2nd at 70kg), Jayden Iverson (2nd at 63kg), Noah Stampeen (3rd at 54kg), Prateesh Giri (3rd at 63kg), and Anthony Canute (4th at 54kg) are all part of a large and strong middle school team at EJ Dunn.
On the girl’s side of the tournament, Alberni only saw a small group of their wrestlers compete. ADSS finished fourth in the girls division. All four female wrestlers for ADSS placed. Morgan Dagenais won the gold at 55 kilograms, Michel Kurucz was second at 63 kilograms, Summer Wass was third at 55 kilograms, and Emma McGowan was fourth at 63 kilograms.
“We have struggled to get all our ADSS girls healthy and committed to training and competing so far this season,” commented John McDonald. “It was great to see Morgan have a good tournament as she has been one of the most dedicated females this year. Even the girls that competed were not all as healthy as we would hope. I am sure if we can get all our girls out to practice and competitions we will threaten for the Island title and maybe even a top 3 finish at BCs. We need to see a healthy Michel Kurucz, Remi Wells, Kiarra Fong, and others out to practice regularly. We have female athletes walking the halls of ADSS that even with one or two months of solid practice could have some decent results.”
EJ Dunn had five girls compete in the Junior Girls Division. Grade 6 Paige Maher moved up an age group and won a gold medal at 64 kilograms. Kylea Anderson (73kg) and Kyla McAuley (90kg) also went undefeated to finish first. Ally Flaro and Mackenzie Boudreau finished third and fifth respectively in a very tough 51 kilogram girls weight class.
The tournament also featured an elementary division for those up and coming wrestlers in Grade 3 to 6. Seven wrestlers placed in the youngest division: Landyn Clayton (Dunn Gold), Bobby McKenzie (Dunn Gold), Mason Bodnar (Neill Silver), Manbir Narang (Dunn Bronze), Joe Bysmla (Neill Bronze), Illonia Berg (Dunn Bronze), and Alex McKenzie (AES Bronze).
Alberni wrestlers will be training hard in preparation for the War on the Floor Tournament this week in Vancouver. On Friday the less experienced grade 9-12 wrestlers will compete in the Novice category and then on Saturday the more experienced group wrestles in the Elite event. Training will continue over the Christmas Break as the teams prepare to send a large group of wrestlers to the Western Canadian Age Class in Richmond January 15 – 17.