The biggest accomplishment of Andrea Morris’s high school wrestling career came in what may have been her last match.
Although Morris had plenty of success over her five years in the sport, gold medals had eluded her at the provincial and national levels.
Until last weekend.
On Sunday, at the national championships in Windsor, Ont., Morris won the gold medal in the 52kg juvenile Greco-Roman competition.
“It was definitely crazy,” Morris said. “It’s weird spending all your spare time training for one sport, then winning nationals in another sport that you haven’t done much of.”
Athletes from the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club focus almost exclusively on freestyle wrestling as opposed to Greco-Roman — the main difference being that legs are fair game in freestyle but off limits in Greco-Roman. Nationals is the only tournament in Canada where female wrestlers take part in Greco-Roman.
“It’s fun,” Morris said of the less-familiar form of the sport. “I don’t take it too seriously. It’s something to go out there and have fun with.”
In freestyle wrestling, Morris had earned a couple of provincial silver medals, but had never before stood atop the podium at the top levels.
“She’s always been the bridesmaid,” CVWC head coach Nick Zuback said. “A gold medal has always eluded her. For her to finish her high school career with gold in Greco was great to see. It was awesome. She was super happy. Her mom was there the whole time, cheering her on.”
Unless she decides to take part in the Canada Summer Games this year, Greco-Roman nationals was the last meet of Morris’s decorated career.
“It was definitely a good note to go out on,” she said. “Medalling at nationals was definitely one of my goals this year. I was more thinking it would be freestyle, but Greco is what gave it to me.”
Morris was one of nine wrestlers who travelled to nationals with Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club head coach Nick Zuback last weekend — eight from the CVWC and one from Comox who travelled with the team. Her teammates also brought home several medals of their own, along with other top-10 finishes, the vast majority in the freestyle competition.
Stephanie Mould, competing in her first national championships at the cadet level, claimed a silver medal in the 56kg class.
“She had some really good matches against some tough girls and she was able to pull it off and get to the final,” Zuback said. “She’s a workhorse, and her work is paying off.”
Hannah Tuplin, a two-time Canadian champion at the cadet level, brought home a bronze medal in the 52kg class in her first national juvenile meet. Tuplin lost a close opening match, then won her next five to reach the third-place match, where she beat none other than Morris, who finished fourth.
“It was a huge weight class, and Hannah had to battle her way up on the back side,” Zuback said. “After the loss, she was able to collect herself. She’s a tough young lady and she doesn’t let things bother her too much.”
Hayley Bye-Pace impressed her coaches with a seventh-place finish in the cadet 60kg class at her first nationals.
“Our expectations were that she would be top 10, maybe top 12,” Zuback said. “She definitely exceeded expectations.”
In the boys freestyle competition, Steven Guo, a recent recruit to the CVWC from Nanaimo, won a gold medal in the juvenile 46kg class. Guo joined the Cowichan club for the provincial championships and will be back full-time next season.
Two-time provincial champion Talon Hird paced fifth in the cadet 46kg class at his first national meet.
“His first match was tough,” Zuback said. “It was the top kid from Ontario. He scored points, but the other kid scored more.”
Marcus Rockx, a Comox wrestler who travelled to nationals with the Cowichan club, placed sixth in the juvenile 63kg class. Two other Cowichan wrestlers, Aidan Tuplin and Anthony Anderson, missed the top 10 in their classes.
The final day of competition included trials for the national team and the Greco-Roman national championships. The top five juveniles and top three cadets were eligible to try out for the national team, with the exception of Guo, who is a landed immigrant and not yet a Canadian citizen. He instead competed in the Greco-Roman tournament, where he won a bronze. Anderson and Aidan Tuplin also wrestled in the Greco-Roman event.
Mould and Hannah Tuplin, meanwhile, competed in the national team trials. Mould finished fifth in her class, while Tuplin placed second, qualifying as an alternate for the Canadian team, although final decisions will be made at a later date.
“She wrestled really well,” Zuback said of Tuplin. “She lost to the No. 1 girl in the country (Mission’s Victoria Seal), one of the only girls in the province who has beaten her.”