Thursday December 14th 2023

On Tuesday December the 5th, I hosted Royal West Academy’s first official Dual Meet since 1992. I should actually call it a quad-meet as four schools were in attendance and what I saw floored me. Loyola High school showed up with a team of over forty athletes. Selwyn House school had thirty five and Beurling Academy had twenty eight. With my team of twenty wrestlers in attendance, this brought the total wrestlers in the gym to over a hundred and twenty wrestlers. These numbers are impressive since in previous years, we’ve seen slightly less than two hundred at the GMAA/RSEQ finals for approximately ten schools!

My training camp held earlier this year saw amazing numbers which I guess could have been an indicator of things to come

The students walking by the gym were astounded by what they saw, and commented that the sport was extremely exciting as most had never seen an actual wrestling match. If a casual observer were to look at the event, they would think that wrestling is a hugely popular sport and that we must be turning away athletes by the dozen in order to accommodate the best athletes that we can. Those in the community know that for the last decade, the sport has seen some highs and lows but it’s been stable, though the numbers have never been as high as they have been since the 90s. So by looking at the numbers from Tuesday’s meet, I think the question needs to be asked, is the sport of wrestling finally beginning to grow again?

There are a few things that may seem to indicate that this is the case. Let’s look at a few things support this: First, let’s look at the registration for the FLOQ. While I don’t have the exact numbers, I remember speaking to the coordinator of the FLOQ about the registrations coming out the pandemic. He stated with some surprise that the numbers were higher post-pandemic than they were pre-pandemic. Considering that it should have probably been trending the other way, this was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Another factor that we can look at is the GMAA/RSEQ high school league. While not all schools that I had predicted joined the league, they still have programs that are currently in operation and will probably join the league next year. As it stands, the league still started the season with thirteen teams, making this one of the larger rosters that we’ve had in many years. Had all teams been competing this year, we would have had sixteen  teams, bringing us to numbers that we haven’t seen since the nineteen-nineties.

The last indicator for the growth of wrestling would be the Quebec Open. While I once again don’t have precise numbers, the organizers of the tournament said that they had about two hundred entries, which made it the largest tournament that they’ve had in more than a decade!

The Quebec Open had great numbers this year

So with all this information we could probably say that the sport is a period of growth. However, I would also be cautiously optimistic before making such a blanket statement. First and foremost, we need to examine the fact that though the sport is in a growth period, there’s a long way to go before we get to the numbers that we were seeing in the eighties and nineties. Since I was too young to be involved at the executive level during this time, I can only go by what people who were competing and coaching at this time, not to mention my own observations of what I saw. During those times, there were just more wrestlers as tournaments were bigger, with larger brackets and more matches per tournament as oftentimes, they would finish later.

Next, we also have to look the GMAA/RSEQ. During those times I mentioned, there more teams and each time had more wrestlers. This was proven by the fact that the GMAA season was longer and that having dual meets was the norm as having anything larger would have the meets finishing way too late. Last but not least, there were no girls in the league at this time and that meant that as whole that though essentially we could double the amount of wrestlers from previous years, the fact remains that the numbers are bit lower then they were before, even with the inclusion of girls.

The Matmen Classic had great numbers this past weekend

On a side note, though this isn’t really an indicator of how our numbers are doing in our province, the Matmen Classic held this past weekend had over eight hundred entries, with many of them coming in from out of the province. If there’s growth in other provinces, is Quebec also seeing this as well as part of an overall interest in the sport?

At any rate, I would surmise that this is an exciting time to be part of the sport. While this spike in numbers for this year may be an aberration, the fact remains is that wrestling is on the rise, at least for this year. Let’s hope that this continues for years to come.