Led by a repeat provincial champion, Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club athletes collected eight top-six finishes at the provincial high school meet in Salmon Arm last weekend, continuing the club’s legacy among the top organizations in B.C.
“A lot of the matches were super tough, but the kids pulled it off,” CVWC head coach Nick Zuback said. “By a hair, they could have got a couple of different results, but that’s why you compete.”
Queen of Angels Grade 9 wrestler Talon Hird won the boys 48kg class to claim his second consecutive provincial championship, setting up a chance to win five titles in five years.
“He works extremely hard,” Zuback said. “He’s the hardest worker in the club.”
There was a case of déjà vu as Hird’s semifinal match was a rematch of a semifinal from last year, with the same opponent, a similar score, and a similar controversy. Hird was up 19-16 with seven seconds left, but his opponent scored four points to Hird’s one in the dying moments to tie it at 20-20, with the scoring system awarding the win to the opponent. Zuback, however, knew that some of the match had been scored incorrectly and pushed for a video review that had the match rescored, this time 20-18 in Hird’s favour.
“It was stressful, but it gave Talon the match and he went to the final,” Zuback recalled. “He ended up winning by superiority.”
Hird’s opponent in the final was Steven Guo of Dover Bay, who also lost to Hird in the Island final, and has trained with the Cowichan club since then. Guo has committed to joining the CVWC next fall.
“He’s been training with us the last two weeks, and they ended up meeting in the final,” Zuback said. “That was nice to see.”
The CVWC also collected a pair of silver medals as Hannah Tuplin of Chemainus Secondary placed second in the girls 54kg class and Andrea Morris of Cowichan Secondary was second in the girls 51kg class.
A back-to-back national champion, Tuplin won nearly every tournament she entered this year, but a provincial title has continued to prove elusive.
“Hannah was wrestling probably the toughest girl in the country, and that didn’t make it easy,” Zuback said. “It was a tough match. Hannah had her on her back, but it was a little but loose, and the other girl was able to get out.”
Grade 12 Morris survived tough matches in the quarter- and semifinals to face a defending national FILA champion in the final of her last provincial meet.
“She was happy with the result,” Zuback said. “She’s an easy-going kid.”
Morris teamed up with Cowichan Secondary teammates Stephanie Mould and Miaya Brownbridge to finish third in the girls team competition, out of around 40 schools at the meet. Zuback believes Cow High could become a wrestling power in the next few years.
“For us moving forward, Andrea will be gone next year, but Steph and Miaya will both be back,” he noted. “Hayley Bye-Pace will be going there next year, and there are a few kids in Grade 7 who are going to high school next year. Hopefully next year Cowichan can make a move to second or even first.”
Mould placed third in the girls 57kg class, one spot better than her finish a year ago. She lost her semifinal match 1-0 after six minutes of wrestling.
“She knows exactly what she has to work on,” Zuback said. “Hopefully she’ll get an opportunity to do it at nationals.”
Brownbridge was fourth in the girls 64kg class.
“She’s improved so much this year,” Zuback enthused. “Some of the best matches I’ve seen her wrestle were at this tournament. Talk about peaking at the right time.”
Joran Branting of Queen of Angels placed fifth in the boys 38kg class at his first provincial meet.
“There were quite a few kids in his weight class,” Zuback said.” He had some tough matches, but he pulled it off. He’s got a bright future. I’m excited to see what he does next year.”
Hayley Bye-Pace, also from Q of A, achieved her preseason objective by placing sixth in the girls 60kg class.
“At the beginning of the year, her goal was to make the top six,” Zuback said. “Last year [at provincials], I don’t think she won a match. This year she won three matches.”
Although they didn’t make the top six, Grade 8 wrestlers Kaelem Gray and Mattias Zachary, both from Q of A, showed a lot of promise in their debut appearances at provincials.
In April, Hird, Tuplin, Morris, Mould, Bye-Pace, Brownbridge and Guo will all travel to Windsor, Ont. for the national championships, along with fellow club members Aidan Tuplin of Duncan Christian School and Anthony Anderson of Wellington.