Fort McMurray wrestlers pin down medals at provincials in inaugural year

After winning eight medals at the Alberta Winter Games in Grande Prairie, two wrestlers are going to the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska

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The inaugural season for the Fort McMurray Wrestling Team has exceeded the expectations of its coach and founder, Ryland Coventry.

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At the recent Alberta Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray athletes took home four gold medals and four silver medals. The team for Zone 7, which includes athletes from Fort McMurray and the Cold Lake region, finished fourth. Next month, Fort McMurray will send two wrestlers to the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska.

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“They didn’t know what a real match looked like. No one’s ever competed in the sport. No one’s actually even seen the sport,” said Coventry. “This was their first eye-opening experience for it. This was their first tournament.”

It was last year’s Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray that inspired Coventry to bring wrestling to local youth. The games featured wrestling and Team Alberta North athletes had strong showings, but none of the wrestlers were from Fort McMurray.

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Coventry was the chair for wrestling and is an instructor at Bowman’s Martial Arts. People who knew about his wrestling and martial arts background approached him about starting a youth wrestling team. After talking to the community and high schools, Coventry decided now was a great time to start. The team is also coached by Hilary Leith and Amie Jewers, and includes about 20 young wrestlers between Grades 7 and 12.

Camden Urchyshyn
Camden Urchyshyn competes in the Alberta Winter Games in Grande Prairie. Image supplied by Amie Jewers

Ireland Shea, one of the team’s young wrestlers, won a silver medal in her category at the Alberta Winter Games. She also swims with the Fort McMurray Mantas Swim Club and plays rugby with the Fort McMurray Knights. Wrestling seemed like a fun challenge when her rugby coach told her about the team.

“I’ve always liked contact sports. You can’t plan through it, it depends on what the other person knows and how willing you are to fight and to make it,” said Shea.

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Local wrestlers Camden Urchyshyn and Coventry’s son, Tyson, qualified for spots on Team Alberta North at the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Alaska. This will by Tyson’s first tournament in any sport. It will Urchyshyn’s second wrestling match after competing in Grande Prairie.

“It’s been getting me a lot more active. The people are really nice. It’s amazing what I’m learning from the other people who have more experience,” said Urchyshyn.

Tyson, who used to practice jiu jitsu, says he hopes to keep training and win a provincial banner in wrestling for his school.

“I like the physical part of it, pushing people around and getting pushed and picking them up and everything and all that part. I also enjoy the satisfaction of when you actually land a move And it’s a good move. It’s so satisfying,” said Tyson.

Raqeeb Ikharia said he has enjoyed the camaraderie on the team and in Alberta’s young wrestling scene. Competing in Grande Prairie gave him a chance to learn from other wrestlers and build a greater appreciation of the sport.

“I had a total of two wins and four losses but overall, my coaches think I did fantastic and you know what? I think I did so, too,” said Ikharia.

wrestling
Raqeeb Ikharia has his hand raised in victory at the Alberta Winter Games in Grande Prairie. Image supplied by Amie Jewers

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