With the high school wrestling season now halfway over, Port Hardy Secondary School’s (PHSS) athletic director Paul Cagna is thrilled with the turnout he’s been seeing from the students so far.
“It’s been great, we started off with a small group of four wrestlers and we now have a full club with around nine students,” Cagna said. “It seems like it keeps growing every week, and I’m looking forward to continue watching these kids develop by giving them the opportunity to compete in tournaments down island.”
This is Cagna’s first year coaching wrestling at PHSS, but he noted he’d previously coached a bit when he was living and working in Ucluelet.
Tyson Whitney has been coaching the wrestling program at PHSS for three years now, and he remembers when he had only three students committed to training during the 2019-2020 season.
“Dawson Lamothe, Grant Joseph, and Maven Speck-Labree,” confirmed Whitney. “Dawson and Grant graduated last year, so Maven’s the last one standing from when the program first started.”
Speck-Labree began wrestling when he was in Grade 8. He didn’t win a lot of matches in the beginning, but he kept coming back to practice and he kept learning. Halfway through the season he suddenly turned the corner and started racking up victories. He’s known for his cardio, suplexes, and his refusal to quit even when down on points late in a match.
Now in his third year of wrestling, Speck-Labree is regarded by the rest of the club as the team captain and the most technical wrestler on the mats.
When asked what drives him to keep coming back every year, he said he just loves competing and “getting to see all the new faces at each practice.”
His favourite part of training is “helping teach the boys to become mad lads,” he laughed, adding that his favourite techniques to use are the cement mixer and his judo trip takedown.
“I’d like to see Maven compete this year,” said Whitney. “It would be good for him to test his skills out down island and see how he does against other schools. I’m really proud of him for how hard he’s worked over the years. There were a lot of classes in the beginning where it was just him and I wrestling for an hour and a half straight and he never quit.”
As for the rest of the club, it’s made up of students who are brand new to the sport.
Jorden Strussi is in Grade 8 at PHSS and he said he’s really enjoyed “the camraderie, everyone is super nice and it’s been super fun.” He noted his favourite technique so far is the double leg takedown.
Auzton Shaw, another Grade 8 student, said wrestling’s been “a lot of fun to learn, and it’s helping me to stay active.” He said his favourite technique is also the double leg takedown.
Rylan France agreed that wrestling has been a lot of fun so far, because it gives him a chance to “hangout and compete with my friends more,” and that his favourite technique is the trip takedown and he likes using the half nelson on the ground to turn his opponents into a pin. He added Speck-Labree is his favourite training partner.
Karl Baraceros has attended the most classes so far this season. He said it’s been “great” because he’s been able to “win a couple matches” and that his favourite technique so far is the cement mixer.
Baraceros noted Whitney is his favourite training partner and he’s aiming to score five points on him by the end of the season.
High school wrestling starts back up at PHSS on Wednesday, Jan. 4 from 5-6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium.