The contingent of wrestlers from Maple Ridge Secondary walked out of the national championships in Saskatoon with medals swinging around their necks.
Payten Smith easily won gold in her juvenile girls weight class, but saw her impressive shutout streak end. A run of two and a half years without anyone scoring a point on her came to a shocking close.
Coach Bill McCrae said someone had obviously scouted Smith’s matches, and saw her affinity for the double leg takedown – a move that sees her rush in, grab the opponents legs, and slam the girl down on her back.
But on that fateful point, as Smith moved in, her opponent countered the move by “jamming her head,” said McCrae – she shoved Smith’s head down to the mat, got on her back, and secured a point.
“She made the girl pay,” said McCrae, who said he could see in his wrestler’s face that the match would be over quickly.
“I was a little worried for her opponent.”
The Grade 11 easily won three matches to take the gold medal. She has won the provincial championship for two years, and in Grades 8 and 9 won silver.
Shaimen Bhogal, a Grade 12 student who trains with the Abbotsford-based Hargo Binder club, and wrestles for his hometown Ramblers, won gold in the Greco-Roman style, in which wrestlers are not allowed to grab the legs.
Grade 9 Cam Hicks won a bronze medal in the competitive 42 kg class, to add to his provincial silver.
McCrae said Hicks has another year at the cadet level to try and win national gold, and has a bright future in high school wrestling.
“He’s tenacious, hard working and dedicated.”
The Ramblers travelled with Westview Wildcat Cody Osborn, who has won bronze medals at the provincials in each of the past two years in the crowded 60 kg weight class, but did not place at nationals.
“He’s in Grade 11, so he’ll get another shot at it,” said McCrae. “Both he and Shaiman won four matches, but didn’t place (in freestyle wrestling).”
McCrae’s daughter attends school in Port Moody, but also joined the Ramblers delegation. The Grade 10 won a bronze medal in her cadet class.
McCrae said it was one of the Ramblers’ best-ever trips to the national championships.
“If you get a chance to become a national champion, that’s huge.”