It’s a new calendar year for NWT Wrestling and it got off on perhaps the best foot possible this past weekend in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Seven grapplers from Yellowknife made the trip south for the Northern Lights Tournament with four of them coming home with brand new gold medals: Ava Applejohn, Katlyn Stewart, Adam Naugler and Jace Menton.
Don Reid, head coach of NWT Wrestling, was also there and said the results were a total surprise to him.
“If you had told me before we went that we would win four gold medals, I would have called you a liar,” he said.
Applejohn fought in the junior high division and won gold in the 54-kg weight class, beating four other wrestlers to do it.
Reid said her gold medal match was one of the best of the tournament.
“She was in a real dog fight to get it,” he said. “She beat a real good opponent who went on to wrestle in the high school division and (her opponent) was winning several matches there. That tells you how tough Ava’s gold medal was to win.”
Naugler’s gold medal came in the senior high division’s 48-kg weight class, where he overcame two opponents to get gold in a straight round-robin bracket; whoever finished atop the standings when all was said and done was declared the winner.
“Execution was the thing for Adam,” said Reid. “He was doing everything very well: cradles, duck-unders, single-leg (takedowns). He executed everything and it all went as planned.”
For Stewart, this was her very first tournament and she kicked off her wrestling career in the best way possible by winning gold in the junior high division’s 70-kg weight class. Even better was the fact that she won her final match, 10-0, meaning the mercy rule came into effect. Any match where there’s a 10-point gap at any point means an automatic stoppage.
Reid said this was a perfect tournament for her to get her feet wet in competition.
“It’s a smaller event and you avoid all the big clubs,” he said. “Kaitlyn is brand new to wrestling – she’s a dancer – and she’s been really good in practice.”
For Menton, it was a case of simply being the better wrestler against his opponent.
Menton competed in the junior high category’s 100-kg weight class with just one other wrestler and he was able to come out on top but Reid said they fought more than the minimum simply for experience.
“They ended up having three matches total,” he said. “I wrestled with his dad years ago and he has the same build as his dad did so it was like watching a younger version.”
Evan Round had himself a tough go of it and ended up missing out on the medal haul but Reid said it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“He fought well and was executing his moves almost perfectly,” he said. “The problem was the other guys in his weight class were also executing their moves and did very well. Just a tough weekend for Evan.”
Paul Reid and Cameron Courtoreille, who it could be argued are the top two youth male wrestlers in the NWT, also ended up on the outside looking in but for very different reasons. Courtoreille wrestled his first match and won but coach Reid made the decision to pull him out because of a knee injury.
“Cameron hurt his knee in practice and so I erred on the side of caution, especially when you’re talking about a knee,” he said. “You don’t want to have to rehab a knee, especially considering this is a Western Canada Summer Games year and it’s a long season for us.”
As for Reid, he looked good in his first match and was winning by 10 points, which should have meant a mercy. Problem was it didn’t go that way and the referee allowed the match to continue.
Coach Reid explained why.
“The match is supposed to end once it gets to a 10-point spread but all action has to come to a stop,” he said. “I thought there was a pause in there and so did Paul but the referee didn’t think so and he allowed the match to continue.”
Reid ended up being pinned by his opponent and that ended up being his only match of the weekend.
“Paul wasn’t feeling well leading up to the meet and so again, I didn’t want to take the risk and have anything serious happen,” said coach Reid.
As mentioned, this season is a busy one with all roads leading to the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., this coming August.
Reid said there are a couple of more trips planned with the meets getting tougher along the way.
“This trip was all about getting experience for our younger wrestlers,” he said. “Kaitlyn and Jace were competing for the first time and we’re planning on going to bigger events so we can get everyone beyond the nerves and the thought of seeing bigger teams. On the mat, it’s just you and one other person.”