LSS wrestling has best finish ever at provincials
Success prompts talk of national bid
Three female wrestlers led the charge as the LSS wrestling team brought home its best finish ever from the provincial championships–including team placement and some top-tier individual results, one of those a gold medal.
The team has travelled to a few tournaments in this year, one at SFU in December and another in Prince George, coach Dave Remple said.
“But then the big tournaments are near the end. We had our zone championships in the Okanagan, that’s where the kids qualify to go for provincials. We have a small zone so most of the kids qualify.”
For such a new team, they actually qualify in impressive style.
“This was our fourth year that we’ve won the team title, so we’ve had a lot of success there,” Remple said.
That may even be putting it a bit mildly. Just to quickly review, the LSS wrestling team has only been in existence for four years and in every one of those years it has not just qualified wrestlers for provincials but has won the qualifying tournament outright.
That’s due to the LSS wrestlers’ success in amassing team points, and Remple puts some of that, particularly to begin with, down to the LSS squad’s size.
“When a wrestler places in the top six of their weight class, they score team points, and the points are weighted based on how big the weight class is, so if there’s only one kid in the weight class and they show up and they get a gold medal, they get one point, and if they have a full weight class it’s 16, so we’ve had success largely because we have a big team. We fill up those weight brackets,” he said.
“So, at first we were just filling up lots of kids, but in the last couple years we’ve gone from having a big team to a very big team with some really elite wrestlers.”
It was with that kind of wind in its sails that, the following week, an RSS team of 10 wrestlers travelled to the B.C. Secondary School Wrestling Association provincial championships in Cowichan Valley.
Those 10 were Specwitsa John, Wyatt Fenton, Kohen Vannice, James Kerslake, Noble Davy, Halle Leidal, Kat Henry, Kiya John, Jocelyn Elofson and Alexis Abramson. They were coached by Remple, David Harder and Chris Hurst.
“We’ve never had anyone make it this far in the competition as we had this year; we had three wrestlers place in the top six, which is really difficult to do at provincials.”
There are at least 20 kids per weight class at provincials, all wrestlers who have qualified to be there.
“It’s a very tough tournament.”
Tough as in there were 115 highly qualified teams registered from around the province between the female and male divisions.
“By the end of the tournament our overall team score placed us 17th overall, that’s for male and female, and when you isolate it to just the female division, our team placed fourth,” Remple said.
“That was really incredible. To be that high up was a big deal. And that’s because we had three girls on our team place in the top six.”
Those girls were Alexis Abramson, who came away with a first-place finish and a gold medal; and Kiya John and Jocelyn Elofson, who each placed fifth in their weight classes.
Abramson, a veteran of the LSS program, came into this provincial tournament having enjoyed early success in her wrestling career, followed by a bit of a wakeup call last year.
She has medaled gold, silver and bronze at previous, smaller tournaments and her previous best provincials finish was fourth two years ago, followed by an elimination last year.
Abramson said her confidence took a bit of a hit with that elimination but it also ramped up her training. She was not expecting a gold at provincials this year.
“No, my goal was to be in the top four because I was seeded for third but I did not expect gold at all,” she said.
Remple thinks she did so against the toughest competition she’s faced yet, in a sport where much depends on which opponents a wrestler draws.
“This year she pulled some really experienced wrestlers, she had a really tough semi-final match against a very experienced wrestler and she wrestled very, very patiently and stuck to her plan and pulled out a really close win, and that was an upset in the seeding,” he said.
“She wrestled in the final against a girl that she has wrestled four times now.”
That was a tough one to call, considering their record as opponents, although things had been trending in the right direction.
“She had beaten me the first three times we wrestled, and then I beat her earlier on in the season at War on the Floor tournament, so going into the tournament anything could really happen at that point,” Abramson said.
What happened was a final score of 11-5 in Abramson’s favour, which is closer than it sounds, particularly after the first round.
“It was a six-minute match; a lot of matches end in a pin or in a 10-point superiority. This match went the distance. It was like a chess match. There was very careful planning ahead of time,” Remple said.
“Alexis had her game plan, she talked it through, she knew what she was going to do, she had worked on a new move because the other girl having known what her moves were, we really talked about showing her something new that she hadn’t seen before, which she executed brilliantly.”
The match is divided into two three-minute rounds with a 30-second break between them.
“Alexis came into the corner at half time down 4-1 in the match and she came into the corner laughing. Not stressed, not freaking out, she was chuckling about something that had happened on the mat, showing her presence of mind and her calm and her confidence.”
Indeed, as Remple said earlier, she was in the middle of a chess match, and very focused.
“I knew that I still had three more minutes and that I could do that but I knew I needed some points.”
That had all gotten a lot more attainable by the time the second half got under way. Remple took up the story.
“She came in down 4-1 but they were disputing a call, so by the time we got back on the mat, the head ref had come over and they’d done video replay, so she came off 4-1 and when she walked back on they had reversed the score 5-4 for her,” Remple said.
“When the score updated you could hear the crowd go. She had a lot of support in the stands, not just from our team but from a lot of wrestlers up north and in the Interior that were all rooting for her.”
Remple said the victory is a huge accomplishment for Abramson and also an inspiration for her younger teammates.
“Lexi paid her dues for four years to get there and she did everything that she needed to do and I don’t think there was a more deserving kid there. Another thing that was really significant was that there was a lot of pressure on her all weekend to perform, but she was continuously focusing on her teammates, warming them up, getting them ready, she was putting her team first the entire time. Even the morning of her final; she had the option to stay back and sleep in and she was there warming up the team for the second day,” he said.
“It’s a huge moment for our program, to get to that level and for the other kids to see it, and we have a team full of Grade 9s and 10s and they all saw that and they all want to be there.”
There wasn’t much else discussed on the bus on the way home, with the result that plans are underway to put together a team for Nationals at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on April 3. There are around seven kids who would qualify for that if it happens and Abramson said she’d definitely be one of them.
“We’re just looking to reach out for some community support and some fundraising and just see what we can do,” Remple said.