Saturday November 9th, 2019
It’s been a little over a week now since Jade Dufour captured her Bronze Medal at the U23 Senior World Championships in Budapest Hungary. To qualify for the World Championships is an accomplishment enough but to medal at the World Championships is even harder. With her Bronze Medal victory, that took Quebec’s medal haul to two (in addition to Linda Morais’ Gold Medal from the 2019 Senior Worlds) , which is pretty impressive for a province with such a small wrestling population.
This being an Olympic qualifying year, the competition was extremely deep at the World Championships, a fact that was on display as many international superstars came up short in their bid or World Championship Gold. Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder not winning their respective divisions is one example that comes to mind. At home, Canada had a tough tournament with many of our decorated athletes coming up short at the Senior Worlds in Nur-Sultan. So, the question that has to be asked is “what went wrong?” I’ve written many articles on what I think needs to change in order to be able to not have this happen and have gotten some generally positive feedback on them. For the one or two that either had no opinion or were generally in disagreement with what I had said, that as always is their prerogative. I’ve never labelled myself as an expert and far be it from me to try to argue my point. I’m just a person that has been witness to many things that have happened at the local, provincial, national and international level, both as an athlete and coach. I’ve been involved with the sport of wrestling from my youth to all of my adult life. While this doesn’t qualify me as an expert, I would say that I have more right to an opinion than most people. People will disagree with me and that’s fine, I won’t try to change their opinion because I simply don’t have enough time to do so.
With that being said, what was it that made Quebec’s performance at both Senior World Championships possible? I have my opinions on why I think that this happened, and I’ll probably get a flurry of reasons on why I’m wrong. As always, I welcome the discourse that we would have amongst each other at tournaments or other venues, so long as it remains cordial. I would like to stress that I’m a volunteer for the most part as I do this blog, along with the website updates in addition to my other responsibilities that include a full time teaching position, as well as coaching both my high school program and club team, for the love of wrestling. Any attack either online or in person shows a lack of class and respect. Too many people are content to criticize but when it comes time to back that criticism up, they mysteriously disappear. More often than not, I usually find that the more critical people are the ones that do the least. With that being said, here are my opinions on what led to Quebec’s success at this year’s World Championships:
A small federation
While I can’t speak for other wrestling federations around the country, having not been privy to their inner workings, I can see the benefits of having a smaller federation. While having a smaller athlete base can be alarming, I would imagine that having too many dissenting voices coming from all angles with a larger federation, would make for something very difficult to handle. People who are there to only further their own agendas detract from what needs to be done. For the most part, we essentially have a unified vision in that each club, whether they agree with the vision of the FLOQ, want to develop wrestling in the province. Where they differ is how to do it but for the most part, we’ve been able to move forward to implement changes that have been recommended to hopefully make us better in the future. A healthy amount of disagreement is always good, provided that it’s done both respectfully and cordially, which sometimes it is not. A smaller federation doesn’t mean no dissention or negativity, it just means that there is not as much for the most part.
Good grassroot development
Many wrestler’s past and present have cut their teeth in our local high school league. Some of the Quebec athletes at this year’s World Championships were developed locally and competed in the GMAA (Greater Montreal’s Athletic Association). These athletes came from our local high schools which more often than not, is a young person’s first exposure to the sport of wrestling. Moving forward, our next goal would be to get more French schools involved as this can only benefit us in the future. These homegrown athletes made up a good chunk of the Quebec team members present on the National Team at the Senior and U23 World Championships which is another indicator that we’re on the right track.
Alex Moore’s victory over Russia was impressive (Alex wrestled for Selwyn House in the GMAA)
Will our next future superstar also come from the GMAA?
Decent local competition
While the tournament numbers could always be higher, I usually find that the tournaments held in Quebec attract a diverse number of competitors from many areas, including Ontario, the Maritime provinces and the United States. There’s always something about Montreal that has an allure for out-of-town athletes as they make the journey to compete, whether it’s at the Concordia Invitational, the Quebec Open or the Montreal Open. This isn’t to say that other provinces don’t attract the same type of diverse crowd, it’s just as an aggregate, I tend to notice this variety in Quebec tournaments quite a bit as I travel to many high school tournaments in other provinces every year.
Again, I can’t speak for other clubs, but I will say that what I’ve noticed in the past year has been encouraging. The Patriotes de St-Cesaire had a healthy medal count at last year’s U17-U19 Nationals and all indications seem that they’ll be healthy for the coming years. The Mohawk Wrestling Club, a new club from last year, was able to have a Bronze medal winner at the U19 Canadian Nationals and a 5th place finisher at the U17 Nationals while the Tritton Top Team and CLIC also had a Bronze medalists at that same nationals. The Riverdale Wrestling Club had a National Champion at the Junior Nationals so once again, we can see that these clubs have been able to attract and develop athletes. Finally, our Concordia Team has always been competitive on the varsity stage in the last couple of years and our two medals from the World Championships are a good indicator that recruitment and development are doing a good job. While once again, the sample size is small, given our limited athlete numbers, we must look at this as a positive.
Coach Peter Montour’s first year with his new club produced a Bronze medal at the Nationals
Strong performances on the International Stage
While looking at medal counts is a good indicator of success, we can’t discount our athletes who perform well, but come up just short of winning a medal. Victories against quality opposition should not be overlooked as they are the building blocks to a successful athlete. Quebec has had many of our athletes be competitive at the international level, a feat that is once again impressive given our small athlete base. Athletes from past to present have been consistently a factor at the international stage and our consistency over the years has to be taken into account.
So in the end, these two excellent performances at the World Championships has many roots. The coaching and the training partners obviously has to be taken into account, as well as their wrestling upbringing from their previous club. However, the nurturing they’ve received in the province has to also be factored in. While the sport of wrestling itself is an individual sport, it relies so much on a good support structure in order for the athlete to be successful. That means that the environment plays a huge part in developing a wrestler. After all, to a certain extent, many other sports can be trained reasonably well individually, but wrestling can’t at all. Wrestling relies on having a room full of good training partners and coaches and while our local numbers could always be higher, our ability to produce quality athletes throughout the years has to be considered impressive. As the new season starts off, and the 2020 Olympics approach, one could hope for the even greater success in the new wrestling year.