Salmon Arm will have a chance to see a less-prominent high school sport in action at its highest level in early March.
The BC High School Wrestling Provincial Championships will be held in Salmon Arm on March 2 to 4 at the Shaw Centre.
Between 420 and 450 young wrestlers from across B.C. will be in town for the tournament.
Ray Munsie, head coach of Salmon Arm Secondary’s wrestling team, says he wants to use hosting the tournament as an opportunity to expose more people to the sport and leave a legacy for the Shuswap’s wrestling community.
“I want to fill up the Shaw Centre for this,” he said.
Salmon Arm’s wrestlers are in a good position going into the provincials. The Salmon Arm boys team placed second at the Zone 2 tournament held at Valleyview Secondary in Kamloops on the weekend; the girls team placed fourth.
SAS wrestlers took gold in seven weight classes: Matteo DeMarni in the 45-kilogram division, Scott Tannock-Favell at 48-kg, Rohan Kafle at 54-kg, Elijah Lazar at 41-kg and Rubin LePoidvin winning the 66-kg division. Both Salmon Arm girls who wrestled in the tournament took gold, Carrie Fromme won the 64-kg division and Shyanne Matthys won at 75-kg.
In addition to the gold medal winners, Korbin Mancell finished fourth and Shane Zou won bronze in the 60-kg division.
Sean Steadman was unable to wrestle on the weekend for medical reasons, but was granted a petition allowing him to compete in the provincial championships.
Lazar and Kafle each placed in the top three at last year’s provincial championship, with Lazar taking home gold in the 38-kg weight class and Kafle placing third at 48-kg. Both wrestlers are in heavier weight classes this year.
Munsie praised the athleticism and dedication of both wrestlers and said he expects a podium finish, which is the first six places in high school wrestling, from both of them.
Every Salmon Arm wrestler who competed in Kamloops has qualified for provincials.
Before the tournament in Kamloops, Munsie said he did not expect the Salmon Arm team to win, as they are short on numbers when compared to previous years.
He said he hopes hosting the B.C. provincials and exposing the Salmon Arm community to the sport will help grow the program.
“Olympic-style wrestling is a relatively obscure sport. People aren’t doing it for the glory,” he said.
Munsie says a legacy of the provincial championships in Salmon Arm will be four wrestling mats, which will remain in the Shuswap after they have been used at the event. He said one of the mats will be given to Shuswap Middle School, one to North Shuswap elementary, while the fate of the other two is still to be decided.
Munsie said the local program is “a-mat-and-a-half away” from raising the $35,000 necessary to keep the mats in the Shuswap.
Two other mats used during the championships will be sold to Burnaby Central Secondary School and Simon Fraser University.
In addition to exposing more people to the sport, Munsie is hopeful Salmon Arm’s hosting the provincial championship will go a long way to inspiring young local athletes to give wrestling a try.