It’s worth the trip to Edmonton … if you’re a wrestler from Cambridge Bay.
Five of the community’s young athletes hit the mats at the University of Alberta in Edmonton for the Golden Bear Takedown Tournament on Nov. 17. When all was said and done, two gold medals came home as Eekeeluak Avalak and Kristen McCallum ended up atop their divisions.
Coach Chris Crooks made the trip as well and said it was a long day but one which the wrestlers enjoyed.
Avalak went unbeaten in his division, winning all five of his matches. The impressive part about the win was he did it fighting up a division.
“I moved him up to the senior high division for Grades 10 through 12,” said Crooks. “He’s in Grade 9 but I wanted him to have a challenge but I knew he would do really well. I knew the competition would be tougher for him but at the same time, I didn’t want him to have any easy matches.”
Even after he was done officially, Avalak still wanted to wrestle, said Crooks, so he found a willing opponent in an exhibition match.
Avalak ended up losing on points, 12-10, but it was only decided in the last few seconds.
“It was tied 10-10 and his opponent ended up scoring two late,” said Crooks.
McCallum’s gold medal was her first career podium finish in wrestling and Crooks said it’s a great way for her to start her wrestling career.
“This is her first year in wrestling,” he said. “She’s a basketball player and a really good all-around athlete but she wanted to give wrestling a try.”
McCallum fought in the junior high category and ended up winning all four of her matches for the title.
“It’s great for her confidence because it shows her that she can be competitive in a really physical sport,” said Crooks.
The other competitors didn’t embarrass themselves by any stretch. Roy Goose ended up winning two of his matches in his division while Shaye McCallum and Aislyn Omilgoetok each won one of their matches.
“Everyone won a match and that’s always a positive,” said Crooks.
When the group wasn’t on the mats, they found time to do the touristy things. A trip to West Edmonton Mall was in order along with a tour of the university itself. They took part in a training camp the day after the meet at the school and before they wrestled, they were guests at an elementary school where they gave a presentation about Nunavut to a Grade 2 class.
“That was really cool for them to talk about where they come from and what Nunavut is like,” said Crooks.
Next up for the wrestlers is the territorial championships in Iqaluit in January, which will be a qualifier for the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games.