Manitoba locked, dropped and rolled its way to a massive medal haul in wrestling on Friday night — and in the process helped shatter a provincial record for all-time performance at the Canada Summer Games.
Local grapplers hit the podium four times, putting an exclamation mark on a banner day of competition. The province now sits with 41 medals, surpassing the previous high of 35.
None was more dominating than the gold-medal performance from wrestler Hunter Lee, 17, who blew away his Ontario opponent in less than two minutes by a perfect 10-0 score in the final of the men’s 98-kilogram category. The big move was what he called a "sweep single into a leg lace" that netted him six match-ending points in a matter of seconds.
"Once you get the leg lace locked in it’s usually really hard to get out of. Once it’s in, the match is pretty much over," said Lee. "I wanted to go out, and I wanted to just dominate as much as I could."
Lee will also have some bragging rights over his 16-year-old brother, Carson — who lost his gold-medal match earlier in the night in the 76k category. Carson nearly pulled it off, dropping a 6-5 decision to his Alberta opponent.
"He’s definitely not going to be as happy about his as I am about mine," Lee said with a laugh. "I probably won’t rub it in too much."
Winnipeg’s Jessica Rabet, 17, also took home a gold medal in the women’s 84k category, outscoring her opponent 12-1. She’s headed to the Regina to attend university this fall and continue her wrestling training.
He may not have won his gold-medal match, but there was no hiding the smile on Khaled Aldrar’s face as he took home a silver medal. The 16-year-old has only been in Canada for about eight months after coming from Syria with his family as a refugee.
He was outscored 10-0 by his Ontario opponent in the men’s 52k final. Aldrar embraced his father, Mohammad, and younger siblings after the match.
"A little bit sad because I lost," the teen said through an interpreter when asked for his reaction. "He thanks all the people supporting him. He’s received a lot of support. And he thanks his dad because he’s trained him before," the interpreter added.
Aldrar’s father said he was "very very proud" of his son and admitted some surprise at how well he’s adjusted on both the mat and in society. "He didn’t think he would receive that support and he’s very very happy. Without the help from people here, he could not be here today," the interpreter said of the father.
Aldrar was asked what was next for him?
"He wants to go be a world champion," the interpreter said. "He’s very happy with his family. There’s been no problems. He wants to study and have successes in life. He wants to go to university."
Manitoba had a shot at a fifth wrestling medal Friday, but Winnipegger Kyle Steeves, 17, was pinned in his bronze-medal match. That means the St. Paul’s student ends up finishing fourth.
Wrestling began earlier this week with team events, and both Manitoba squads fell short of qualifying for the medal round. The women went 2-3 in their matches, the men 1-3. However, as part of the team event, each wrestler accumulated points based on their individual results.
The top 12 overall wrestlers in 11 different weight categories then advanced to one-on-one competition Friday. The top four automatically went straight to the semifinals, which is how the five Manitoba wrestlers qualified. Aldrar, Rabet and the Lee brothers all won their semifinal matches Friday morning, while Steeves dropped his.
Winnipeg four individual medals is quite an accomplishment, especially considering both the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg have cut their wrestling programs in recent years. Team Manitoba coaches told the Free Press earlier this week that has hurt the development of the sport, especially at the grassroots level, and put the province at a major disadvantage.
A dozen other Manitoba wrestlers — six men and six women — also qualified for individual competition after finishing inside the top 12 in their classes, but outside the top four. They competed in final placement matches throughout the day Friday.