You’d never know the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club was ever at a low point by the way their 22-member contingent competed in the provincial westling tournament recently.
“For being a couple of years off and losing a lot of kids that graduated, we still did well in placings at provincials,” said head coach Nick Zuback.
Representing nine different schools, the nearly two dozen athletes fought their way to three first-place finishes, a second, two thirds, two fourths and a sixth, and a number of near top-six results. An additional wrestler from Frances Kelsey Secondary who is not affiliated with the club also brought home a silver medal.
The gold medallists included Phoenix Skailes of Queen Margaret’s School in the 90kg girls class, Jessica Nakahara of Ladysmith Secondary in the 110kg girls class, and Joaquin Dalton-Pereira of Duncan Christian School in the 48kg boys class.
Skailes, a Grade 12 student but first-year wrestler, didn’t concede a point over the course of the tournament, and her final match lasted only eight seconds as she became the first QMS wrestler to win gold at provincials. Nakahara is also in Grade 12 but has been wrestling for a few years and picked an opportune time for her best performance.
“It’s great to see her go out on top, to peak at the right time,” Zuback said. “You can’t ask for more that in the final at the provincial championships.”
Dalton-Pereira, a Grade 11 student, reached the finals for the second time, having taken silver in his previous appearance. He made sure to improve on that result this time around.
“It’s been his goal,” Zuback commented. “I can’t say I’ve seen a more determined wrestler.”
Leon Tsuboi, a first-year wrestler who Zuback recruited right out of the hallway at QMS, finished second in the 38kg boys class, winning his first three matches to reach the final.
Ruby De Graaf, who is not a member of the CVWC but represented Frances Kelsey Secondary, wrestled to a silver medal in the 43kg girls class, teching her opponent 10-0 in the second-place match.
Queen of Angels’ Carter Zuback finished third in the 51kg boys class, his only loss at the meet coming in the last second.
“The first thing he told me is that he wants to get back on the mats and train for the next meet,” coach Zuback noted.
Darren Doherty of Duncan Christian finished third in the 70kg boys class. He wrestled well on the A side before having to battle his way through the back side for a rematch in the bronze-medal match against the same wrestler who beat him in the semis.
“When you beat someone who beat you in the same tournament, there’s no better feeling.”
Loryn Roberts of QMS finished fourth in the 64kg girls class, fighting back after ending up on the back side of the draw in what Zuback called “probably one of the toughest weight classes on the girls side.”
Aiden-Dyer Price of DCS finished fourth in the 84kg boys class — a division that featured the boys MVP and the Match of the Tournament — despite going in unseeded.
“He leaves it all on the mat,” Zuback said of Dyer-Price. “He gives everything. He’s probably one of the kids on the team with the biggest heart. He shows the ‘no quit’ attitude whenever he wrestles.”
Elijah Cote from Nanaimo Christian School placed sixth in the 65kg boys class, a division where every competitor was fairly equal and anything could have happened.
Three more wrestlers from Queen Margaret’s School — Georgia Bond, Sedona Bond and Rose Wu — were all just a win away from a top-six finish at provincials.
The rest of the Cowichan contingent included Ehmber Shelly, Jake Armstrong, Jacob Meiner, Sabina Webber and Savanna Screaton of QMS, Emma Greenwood and Cameron Healey of Chemainus Secondary, Antonio Iannidinardo and Gabe Carriero of Frances Kelsey, and Bryan Matthews of St. John’s Academy. Duncan Christian finished sixth in the male points standings, and QMS placed 17th in the overall standings.
CVWC athletes will keep training for the national championships in June, as well as the Canada Summer Games and BC Summer Games trials.