Sunday April 21st 2019
The National Championships wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and the fact that it was held in New Brunswick meant that once again I would be taking a drive to Fredericton. Now that things have calmed down a little bit, I’ve had some time to think about the trip. After all, while I do enjoy coaching, things that concern my actual career have to take precedence since bills need to be paid! But with that being said, throughout my many years of wrestling, I would probably make that trip minimum twice a year. The drive has almost become a routine at this point, made easier that when I first starting making that drive out east, there was no modern highway in place and it was slow going on a small two-lane highway. New Brunswick is almost as familiar as Ontario at this point as we have many competitions taking place there at all age levels. It’s ironic to think that while this trip is pretty much a part of my yearly routine, there are people that I know who have never even seen New Brunswick. Just another thing that I was able to reflect about from my trip to New Brunswick.
It’s with that being said that I wanted to point out some of the things that I witnessed on that weekend. Though numbers have been dropping in the last couple of years, the numbers at the tournament were pretty good despite the competition being in New Brunswick. Because of its location to the far east, the cost of flying out there, especially for clubs and teams coming from the far west coast is very costly to say the least. This basically limits the amount of wrestlers coming from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. This usually means that we see better wrestlers making the trip and the tournament did not disappoint as the wrestling was pretty intense in some cases. What I did notice was that there was a lot more physicality in the wrestling, as athletes competing seemed to rely more on athleticism rather than technique. With that being said, the technique that I did see was pretty good and athletes were very well trained thereby producing a good level of wrestling quality.
The Aitken Centre has become a familiar place for the Canadian National Championships
Another thing that I noticed is that while the Aitken Centre is a perfectly serviceable location for the tournament; the large numbers are not conducive to holding a large number of matches. The arena can only hold eight mats comfortably and even though numbers are lower when held out east, the Boys competition finished at 10:45 after all the medal presentations were done. In Ontario and out west, they usually have a minimum of ten mats, with the competition reaching twelve-plus mats when held in Ontario. This meant that we got back to our hotels late and had to begin the process again for the Girls competition on the following day. To say that it was tiring was an understatement.
Due to the size of the tournament, a corral system had to be put into place. A corral is very efficient when handling large numbers of wrestlers but isn’t very good for spectators watching from the live stream on YouTube (available for the for the first time for the U17-U19 Nationals) as the location of each weight category changed depending on mat availability. This meant that people watching from home had to have someone at the competition keep them up to date up till the last minute in which mat their wrestler would be wrestling on in order to be able to watch the matches live. Therefore it was also nice to be able to co-coach with some of my fellow coaches and help their athletes along as the pace of the tournament sometimes meant that it as entirely possible that a coach could be occupied with one athlete, thereby leaving another athlete unattended for an upcoming match. Sometimes we were lucky in that we could be two coaches per athlete and sometimes we were with athletes that we were unfamiliar with. Despite this difficulty, we were able to get things done and produce some good results.
It was nice to be able to co-coach as it meant that we weren’t stressed
Last thing that I also noticed was that though it seems like it was just yesterday, a lot of time has passed since I’ve started coaching and it’s safe to say that I’ve seen a lot in my time. With that being said, I guess it’s safe to say that I’m getting older. Therefore, it was nice in that I was able to meet up with some former opponents who are now coaches as well as an old coach from Quebec who currently lives in New Brunswick. As the years go by, it’s nice to catch up with old acquaintances because you don’t know when you’ll get the opportunity to do so again. I had the opportunity to meet up with Rob Lang, a former opponent who has since started up his own club. This must be an exciting time for him as starting up a new program has both its share of difficulties but at the same time its share of rewards. I met up with a former teammate Clint Kingsbury who currently makes New Brunswick his home. Seeing him with his two daughters is yet another reminder of how much time has passed by since we wrestled together. I was able to talk a little with Nasir Lal, another former opponent who probably didn’t recognize me! The last person I was able to meet up with was Clive Gibson, the former coach for the Beaconsfield Wrestling team as well as Concordia’s Rugby teams. In his time in wrestling, Clive had produced many athletes that medalled at the National Championships as well the U-Sport Nationals. Vice-President of officials, Tony Ronci and former Junior National Team Member Tim Wadsworth are some of the more notable athletes that came from his program. Clive was also a referee and when he took his well-deserved retirement, it was nevertheless a loss for Quebec wrestling. Clive is someone I held in great esteem both as a young athlete and coach and it was great to see him in good spirits and to be able to catch up with him a little at the tournament.
It was nice to be able to talk to these two gentlemen (Luc Lauzon (left) and Clive Gibson)
As time goes on, I realize that things will always be in a constant change. Change is good but at the same time, it’s nice to reminisce and meet up with people from the past. I’m happy to see that they’re doing well and that they are still involved in the sport in some way, whether it’s as a coach, referee or a supporter. After all, with things always being in a constant state flow, who knows when I’ll be able to talk to these people again. Just some food for thought.