While one of their teammates was making history at the provincial championships that wrapped up on Monday, other members of the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club were having phenomenal showings of their own.
CVWC athletes combined for 12 podium finishes at the meet in Langley, including two gold medals, three silvers and two bronzes, one fifth-place finish and three sixths.
Joining five-time champion Talon Hird with provincial gold was Queen of Angels Grade 8 Loryn Roberts, who took top spot in the female 57kg class, beating athletes as much as four years older than herself along the way.
“In 57kg girls, you’re looking at one of the most competitive weight classes when you get up there,” CVWC head coach Nick Zuback said. “She had to battle quite a bit to get to the finals, but she kept calm and stayed with her game plan.”
Roberts was thrilled to win gold in her tournament debut.
“It’s amazing in my first year at provincials,” she said. “It was nice to go up there and make the club and the coaches proud.”
The final match was close at the beginning, but Roberts took over and ended it with a pin.
“It’s not like time ran out,” Zuback pointed out. “A pin fall is a pretty amazing thing to do.”
As a champion in Grade 8, Roberts has the potential to win five in a row, which Hird became only the fifth wrestler in B.C. history to do.
“Hopefully next year she’ll be in the same weight class or one up,” Zuback said. “And be able to recreate the moment she had this weekend.”
Ashton Combdon finished second in the male 63kg class, knocking off a titan of high school wrestling along the way. For his first opponent, Combdon drew the previously “untouchable” Owen Martin of Surrey’s SAIL Academy, who was looking for a fourth provincial title, and took him out with a pin.
“It was probably the best match I’ve seen in my entire career,” Zuback said. “Ashton basically marched in there and found a way to win.”
The Grade 11 from Cowichan Secondary went into his first-ever provincial final as the underdog, but didn’t let it bother him.
“I’ve never been that laser-focused in my life,” he said. “There was no room for doubt, fear, anything. I went into autopilot, and next thing, I look up and I’m pinning him.”
Combdon lost in the final against Humraj Sandhar of Rick Hansen Secondary, but that has only provided more motivation for the Cowichan wrestler.
“Next time I see that guy, I’ve promised myself I’m going to take him out,” Combdon said.
Also from Cow High, Hayley Bye-Pace placed second in the female 64kg class, ending her Grade 12 year with the best result of her career.
“She’s been working her whole high school career to get to the final,” Zuback said. “She didn’t get the result she wanted, but I couldn’t be prouder of her. She battled back from injury and sickness, and left it all on the mat in the final.”
Bye-Pace was also proud of her finish.
“It was my first time in the finals,” she said. “That’s a good way to finish my high school career. I had a pretty good season. It’s sad to look back and see that it’s all over, but I’ll continue to wrestle in university.”
Q of A Grade 9 athlete Joaquim Dalton-Pereira finished second in the male 45kg class in his second trip to provincials.
“This year he was one of the most improved wrestlers over the whole year,” Zuback said. “He just wanted it, got better, and went through every match focused. He’s a very tough kid.”
Zuback had high hopes for Cowichan Secondary’s Dawson Jory, who crushed the competition at the Island meet a week earlier. Jory didn’t win in his semifinal, a match that saw both wrestlers score a lot of points, but battled through on the back side of the draw to finish third in the male 74kg division. A Grade 11 like Combdon, Jory will be back next year with unfinished business.
Another third-place finisher was Charlie Roberts of Queen Margaret’s School in the female 51kg class.
“She was right on her game,” Zuback said. “The one girl she lost against ended up winning gold and Match of the Tournament for her final. For her to battle back was amazing.”
Cow High Grade 10 Nadja Schwarz was another wrestler expected to finish high after she went into provincials seeded second. An injury forced Schwarz to concede in her female 69kg semifinal, and the best she could do after that was sixth, which is where she ended up. Without the injury, Zuback is certain she would have challenged for first.
Miaya Brownbridge, another Cowichan Secondary wrestler, claimed a fifth-place medal in the female 60kg class, and Q of A’s Georgia Bond finished sixth in the female 64kg class.
Mattias Zachary placed sixth in the male 51kg class and Dylan Battye finished sixth in the male 60kg class, both joining Hird, Combdon and Jory to help Cowichan Secondary’s boys team to a best-ever third-place overall finish.