Despite a late start to its season, West Kildonan Collegiate’s wrestling team is looking to take down the opposition once again.
Usually the team — which won provincials in both the boys and girls categories last school year — starts practising in late October/early November. This year, the team didn’t hit the mat until the middle of November due to the success of the school’s volleyball and football teams.
Therefore, West Kildonan’s wrestling rookies didn’t take part in the team’s first tournament of the season, which took place Sat., Dec. 7 at Elmwood High School.
"I’ve decided to let my Grade 9 wrestlers just go there and watch for safety reasons and confidence levels," Wolverines coach Jayson Henrich said last week.
"I don’t want to throw them into the lion’s den right away. I’m giving them an opportunity to watch and keep an eye on things and get a taste of it."
The rookies have some quality wrestlers to learn from, as the Wolverines only lost two boys and one girl from last year’s winning program.
One Wolverines veteran to watch is Grade 12 student Evan Gobeil. The 17-year-old Amber Trails resident captured gold at provincials in his weight class in Grade 9, bronze in Grade 10 and bronze again in Grade 11. Earlier this year, Gobeil competed for Team Manitoba at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
In Saturday’s tournament, Gobeil took home silver in his weight class (lightweight), while fellow Wolverines Cortni Seier, Justin Ramgotra and Samantha Licandro won gold, silver, and bronze respectively.
A WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) fan growing up, Gobeil was introduced to traditional wrestling by his older stepbrother and "loved it right off the hop."
"I like that you don’t need to rely on a team for the win," Gobeil said. "You don’t have to put trust into other people. If you mess up, you know it’s your fault and you know what you need to improve on."
Gobeil said he’s currently working on his speed.
"For a lightweight (58 kg) I need to be faster," Gobeil said. "Mr. Henrich and I have talked about what my strengths and weaknesses are and he thinks I’m a really good technician. I practise the moves quite often and I know them well, I just need to work on my speed."
Henrich, a phys-ed teacher at West Kildonan, started the school’s wrestling program 12 years ago. He said for the first few years, it was all in-house, with no formal competitions until about seven or eight years ago.
Now, the team practises for two hours, three days a week. Weight training and conditioning is expected from the students on their own time and tournaments are all-day on Saturdays.
Henrich said wrestling is a good sport for students to get involved with because it’s very affordable, it’s open to boys and girls, and despite being a combat sport, there’s no ideal body type.
"It’s all different weight categories, so whether you’re tall and skinny or short and squatty, it doesn’t matter, there’s no uniform style for wrestlers," Henrich said.