Over a hundred wrestlers across the region — encompassing Smithers, Mackenzie, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, and Vanderhoof — competed at the Nechako Valley Invite wrestling tournament in Nechako Valley Secondary on Dec. 12.
Including athletes from Grades 2 to 12, Vanderhoof was represented by 51 wrestlers, nearly 40 of which were elementary school age, said Travis Himmelright, head coach of NVSS’s wrestling team and the Nechako Valley Wresting Club — the elementary school division.
Losing five Grade 12 wrestlers last year, Vanderhoof’s high school team is currently in its rebuilding stage, Himmelright said.
For the elementary division however, which started 10 years ago, this year’s program is the biggest so far, he added.
“Vanderhoof is limited with options [in sports], but we had good success in the past and we’ve grown every year, with word of mouth,” Himmelright said.
This weekend’s tournament serves as a northern championship for the elementary school students, whose season is short compared to other sports, he explained.
The secondary school wrestling season ends in February, but weekly practices for the elementary division starts in October and finishes by the end of December, he added.
“[Each practice] is an hour and 15 minutes of gymnastics and combatives,” Himmelright said.
Aa an anaerobic sport with short stints, teaching athletes in managing their adrenaline, the focus at the students’ level now is fun, he said.
For Grade 8 student Nolan McCleary, who started wrestling this year, the sport is fun, he said.
“[With the sport] I’m able to wrestle somebody and have a reason to,” McCleary said, adding that he enjoys the satisfaction of winning as well.
For him, the focus lies in trying to turn someone over and not allowing the opponent to grab first, he said.
For Ken Miller, whose Grade 2 son Tyson is in his first year of wrestling, the sport is familiar in the family, as Ken used to wrestle throughout his junior and high school years, he said.
“He sees all my trophies in [wrestling] and wanted to get involved himself,” Miller said. “He’s so active; it’s a great thing for him.”
He added, “It teaches him discipline.”
As an individual sport, wrestlers are still part of a team, Miller said. “There’s a lot of technique and skill,” he said. “You don’t just go in and hit someone.”