Three wrestlers qualified outright for Team Saskatchewan at the Games trials on Saturday in Regina, with three more earning alternate spots in case one of the winners is unable to compete in three months time.
On the boys side, Moose Jaw Kinsmen Wrestling Club competitor Payton Kell earned the spot in the male 39-to-42-kilogram class, with clubmates Kayde Kell (46 kg) and Liam Vargo (58 kg) emerging as alternates. They’ll be joined by Regina Advanced Wrestling Academy’s Kyle Yamniuk, who claimed top spot in the 63-kg division.
On the girls side of things, Alexis Bradish continued her meteoric rise, winning all three of her matches in the 65-kg class to take first place. Sydnee Christmann finished second in the 74-kg division and will be the alternate there.
While the trials weren’t as massive a tournament as other events earlier in the season and saw fewer matches, that’s for good reason, according to Kinsmen Wrestling Club coach Rob Villeneuve.
“Usually at the end of the year you have a pretty good idea who the top two or three in the province are, so some of the weight classes only had a few kids, but those were the ones who thought they had a good chance of moving on,” he explained.
Kell, for example, had a single match in which he defeated Arieus Cyr of the Regina Wolverines by pinfall. As one of the younger competitors in the age 12-16 draw, he might be in tough at the Games, but odds are that won’t be a factor.
“He could have has his work cut out for him, there’s a big difference between a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old, but it’s all weight classes and he’s in a smaller one, so the chances are a lot of the kids he’ll be wrestling will be young, too,” Villeneuve said. “So it could be interesting.”
Yamniuk had the easiest trip of all, advancing by acclamation and opting to spend the weekend coaching his teammates. The Grade 10 Peacock competitor is coming off an appearance at the Wrestling Canada national championships earlier this spring and could be a medal favourite at the Games.
“I think I should do pretty good, hopefully,” Yamniuk said “The key will probably be my training in Regina right now, I’m learning a lot of stuff. New moves I haven’t been taught before, different angles, set-ups and all that type of stuff. Hopefully it all helps.”
That training regimen will only ramp up substantially in the coming months, something he’s looking forward too.
“That’s what my coach did heading into nationals, my training picked up a lot and it helped because we got more cardio in and things like that,” he said. “It made a difference and I’m hoping it’ll help a lot this time, too.”
Bradish’s run was the toughest of all, and even more impressive given she only picked up the sport in November.
Well, toughest in the sense she had the most matches – considering she won all three in under 1:10 and two in under a minute, ‘difficult’ wouldn’t be the word one would use to describe her trip. Not much of a surprise for the reigning provincial champion in the 61-kg division.
“She’s only in her first year, but she won SAWA provincials, so we thought ‘okay, we better bring the provincial champ’,” Villeneuve said with a laugh.
“She had three matches and there were some tough kids in her draw, but Alex is a tough girl, she really aggressive and she’s a fast learner,” he added. “This will be a good opportunity win, lose or draw and no matter what happens at Western Canada Games, it’ll show her what the competition is going to be like at that level.”
As for the three alternates, the message is simple: stay ready.
“We’ve seen that in the past, too, where kids have been training all throughout the year just in case they have to go,” Villeneuve explained. “I remember back in 2011, one of the kids who was supposed to be on the team ended up breaking his arm and the alternate needed to step up. So it does happen, there’s a long time between now and then and with hard training and stuff that happens, you never know… just because you didn’t get the gold doesn’t mean you won’t be on the team later, so keep training.”
The wrestling portion of the Western Canada Summer Games runs from Aug. 16 to 17.