A Williams Lake Wrestling Club grappler showed heart and determination to become the first gold medalist from the club to win at a provincial wrestling championship.
Eleven-year veteran Braden Conrod achieved the feat in the 66-kilogram division at the event, held Feb. 27-28 in Abbotsford, to become the first wrestler in the WLWC’s 19-year history to win at provincials.
His former coach and WLWC founder, Rick Bryan, was also there adding to the significance of the moment.
“I have never seen such focus, determination and heart from an athlete,” said WLWC head coach and Braden’s mom, Sonia Conrod.
In the final Braden was matched up with last year’s national bronze medalist, Nick Lew.
“The crowd expected the Coast Wrestling Academy Wrestler to defeat this small-town kid, no problem,” Sonia said.
The end came when Braden reversed a gutwrench, locked Lew’s chin and pulled butterfly for the pin.
“The crowd erupted. There was a standing ovation from the whole building,” she said.
The match was subsequently voted best match of the finals, and also grants Braden a berth to the national wrestling championships.
“[Rick] was sitting in Braden’s corner with me for all his matches and it was an honour to have him there with us to share this experience,” Sonia said. “Braden is the last of the original member from when Rick was here. He also started Braden in the sport in Grade 1.”
The rest of the competition, where several other WLWC wrestlers put together strong results, was intense, Sonia said.
“All our athletes were awesome,” she said. “Every weight class was a double knockout bracket draw with top competitors from all over the province. Most of our young athletes were in Grade 8 so the experience was incredible for them.”
Niko Kirner, in the 70kg division, placed 15th. Nathan Preston, meanwhile, in the 84-kg division was 12th.
Also in Grade 8 Cierra Bellerose, at 47 kg, finished 10th.
Molly Lamb, in what Sonia said was a very tough 69-kg division, just missed the podium by taking eighth overall, however, finished high enough to qualify for the national championships.
“Everyone fought hard and I’m very proud of all our athletes and the effort they put in,” she said. “Getting to experience this was amazing for all of them.”
Braden and Lamb are now training for the national wrestling championiships, coming up April 14-17 in Calgary, Alta.