PORT HARDY — For the first time in nine years, Vancouver Island’s secondary school wrestlers will converge on the North Island as Port Hardy Secondary School hosts the provincial-qualifying Vancouver Island High School Championships Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.
As many as 140 athletes from 35 schools are expected to take part in competition on three mats in the PHSS gymnasium. The event is free to spectators and will include a concession and 50/50 draws.
“We welcome the public and want people to be knowledgeable of what wrestling is,” said Joe Humphries, the PHSS wrestling coach and tournament director. “And, hopefully, coming up to the North Island it well help with program building and interest more kids in taking part.”
Competition will be held in boys and girls divisions, with 11 weight classes for girls and up to 16 for boys. The top five boys and top six girls at each weight will qualify for the Feb. 24-26 provincial championships in Abbotsford.
The format is freestyle, or Olympic, wrestling. Far from the wild ring antics of professional wrestling featured in the WWE, it is a physically and technically demanding sport in which competitors battle for three, two-minute rounds. A weighted point-scoring system is used to award rounds, with wrestlers needing to win two of three rounds to claim a match victory.
Humphries said he expects between eight and 12 PHSS wrestlers to compete.
“Hopefully we’ll have a few kids qualify for provincials,” Humphries said. “If we do, we’ll take them.”
North Island Secondary School of Port McNeill, which has had several provincial qualifiers over the last four years, does not have an active program this season and will not take part.