It has been nearly 10 years since Port Alberni wrestler Travis Cross donned the red singlet for Team Canada and competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. While all his hard work culminated in those international matches, played under the glow of the Olympic rings, Cross remembers where he got his start: in high school wrestling.
Alberni District Secondary Wrestling in partnership with Alberni Wrestling are hosting the 2018 BC Secondary Schools Wrestling Championships for boys and girls here in the Alberni Valley, March 1–3 at the AV Multiplex. The Alberni Valley last played host to the high school provincials in 2008.
Cross competed in five BC High School Championships from 1993 to 1998 (He missed Grade 8 provincials due to hockey commitments). “In Grade 7, I was the youngest wrestler on our team and I will never forget travelling to SFU, looking up to all the seniors as mentors,” he recalled. “I felt that they embraced me onto their team.
“One wrestler noticed that I showed up to the bus with no wrestling boots, as I wrestled in Vans shoes up until then. He gave me his backup pair and I thought that was really cool.”
Cross wrestled the eventual BC champion in his weight class in his first match, but it didn’t last very long. “Quite honestly, I didn’t even know what happened between the first whistle to the last. He handed it to me very well,” he said.
“I wrestled that same wrestler in the finals in 1995 and only narrowly missed beating him. It was his Grade 12 year and I was in Grade 9, and I felt pretty good about my improvement over the two years.”
In 1996 three Alberni wrestlers were seeded first, second and third at 57 kg, with Cross seeded second. He lost and failed to place. He was upset, but learned a valuable lesson from program coordinator Tom McEvay: “Tom consoled me by noting that I had contributed to the team championship by my effort at practice all year, pushing my teammates to be at their best, and also by cheering my team on after I was knocked out of the tournament,” Cross recalled.
“It made me realize that there was so much more that goes into success other than just winning.”
In 1997 and 1998—hosted in Port Alberni—Cross won the BC championships in his weight class. There were a number of Grade 12 students on the provincial team in 1998, his graduation year. “It was an epic year and an outstanding team on so many levels,” he said.
“Our team won three titles from 1996–98. More importantly, those years gave me the experiences and tools to find success in life and to follow my academic and athletic goals.
“Alberni Wrestling challenges people to always improve and to be their best in sport as well as in life,” says Cross.
“Wrestling has given me lifetime friendships, a means to a post-secondary education and the opportunity to travel around the world.”
These days, Cross is the wrestling coach at Maquinna Elementary school in Port Alberni, and he also helps out Alberni Wrestling’s junior club. “I am following my boys, Nickolas and Nolan—Grade 6 and Grade 3, respectively—through their levels of wrestling,” says Cross.
“I hope to become more involved as they do. My boys have been exposed to Olympic wrestling since they were born. They came to watch me compete, although they don’t really remember. Now I get to coach them, which is a thrill for me.”
Cross has a practice mat in his basement, and he and his kids like to go down there just to have some fun.
“I have never pushed Nickolas and Nolan into attending practice or competing, and I want that desire to wrestle to come from them,” says Cross. “I hope my boys find a passion for wrestling or other interests so they reap the benefits while pursuing excellence.”
Cross also has a three-year-old daughter, Daniela, who can hold her own on the mat at home. “(She’s) proving to be a fiesty up-and-comer,” he said.
Earlier in January, Cross paid forward the kindness shown to him all those years ago by a senior wrestler: he gifted a pair of wrestling shoes to a student from the Maquinna Elementary School wrestling program.
MAT TALK…Preliminary wrestling matches for the BC Secondary Schools championships will take place all day Friday, March 2 and early Saturday, March 3, with the finals starting March 3 at 10 a.m. The final matches take place at 2 p.m. at the Multiplex.