Talon Hird will be looking to make history at the provincial high school wrestling championships.
The decorated athlete from Cowichan Secondary School and the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club has a shot at becoming just the fifth wrestler in B.C. history to win five provincial titles.
The sport divides competitors by weight class instead of age, so Grade 8 students square off in the same events as Grade 12s. Hird won his weight class in each of his first four trips to provincials, and hopes to cap off his high school career with a fifth gold at the 2020 meet that begins this weekend in Langley.
Hird strolled through the Island championships in Port Alberni last weekend, where he didn’t concede a single point on his way to the top of the podium in the 54kg boys class and was named Most Outstanding Male Wrestler.
“I think everyone in the gym — coaches, competitors, parents — saw that coming,” CVWC head coach Nick Zuback said. “He’s the hardest worker in our room, the most dedicated wrestler I’ve ever had. Hopefully this weekend he makes history with his fifth provincial championship. That’s the goal.”
Hird will lead a contingent of 20 wrestlers from the Cowichan Valley into provincials after an Island meet that played out pretty much as expected for the club. In addition to plenty of individual success, Cow High also won the girls’ team title for the third year in a row.
“All the kids did pretty well,” Zuback noted. “We had some pretty good matches. The results were about what we were expecting. There were no big surprises. The ones we were expecting to win won, and the ones we were expecting to finish in the top did that. They all got the results we were looking for.”
Five Cowichan Valley wrestlers, including Hird, won gold in male divisions at Islands, and most of them will contend for provincial titles as well. Queen of Angels’ Joaquim Dalton-Pereira faced the defending provincial champ in the 45kg boys final and defeated him to earn one of four seeded spots in Langley.
“I think he has what it takes to place on top of the podium, too,” Zuback said.
Hird’s Cow High teammate, Dawson Jory, cruised through the 74kg class.
“He didn’t give up a point, and he made it look easy,” Zuback said.
Other first-place finishers in the boys division were Rory Brennan-McCann of Shawnigan Lake School at 48kg, Q of A’s Grady Berg at 66kg, and Cow High’s Dylan Battye at 60kg. Battye was denied a seeded position at provincials, but the club has filed an appeal on his behalf.
Also qualifying for provincials were Cow High’s Mattias Zachary (second at 51kg), Quamichan’s Connor Gregson (third at 54kg), Duncan Christian’s Darren Doherty (second at 57kg), and Frances Kelsey’s Josh Isaac (third at 60kg) and Gabriel Carreiro (third at 84kg).
Hayley Bye-Pace and Miaya Brownbridge won individual gold at 64kg and 60kg, respectively, to lead Cowichan Secondary to a third consecutive Island title. Both wrestlers also earned seeds at provincials.
“That should hopefully get them into the finals,” Zuback said. “It would be nice to see five or six from the Cowichan Valley in the finals at provincials.”
Brownbridge’s final against Natalie Mahoney of G.P. Vanier was named the most outstanding match of the entire meet.
“It was back and forth,” Zuback reported. “And she came back and pulled it off.”
Nadja Schwarz also contributed to Cow High’s Island title win with a second-place finish in the 69kg class.
Queen of Angels’ Loryn Roberts and Kelsey’s Chloe Foster brought home gold medals from the 57kg and 75kg classes, respectively. Also qualifying for provincials were Q of A’s Georgia Bond (second at 64kg) and Philomena Wilson (fourth at 60kg).
Three more CVWC athletes were unable to compete at Islands, but were petitioned into provincials: Charlie Roberts of Queen Margaret’s School, Ashton Combdon of Cowichan Secondary, and Jessica Nakahara of Ladysmith Secondary. Two others — DCS’s Aiden Dyer-Price and Q of A’s Ethan Mellings — missed Islands and won’t have medical clearance for provincials, but Zuback feels they “definitely” would have qualified.
“They both probably would have won Islands if they were healthy,” the coach said.
Cowichan Secondary will be in the running for a bunch of top prizes in Langley, where weigh-ins take place on Saturday and competition goes on Sunday and Monday. Hird and several of his teammates will contend for individual gold, the girls team will be in the mix for their title, and the combined team could bring home the aggregate championship.
“I feel strongly that if all the kids from Cowichan Secondary place one or two in their divisions, there’s no reason they won’t be bringing back the provincial banner,” Zuback stated.