Friday February 24th, 2023

It’s been over two weeks since the GMAA/RSEQ City Championships took place. Loyola High School was crowned as the champions for the boys while Massey Vanier was crowned as the champions for the girls. For Loyola, it wasn’t much of a surprise as they look poised to take the banner based on the quality of their wrestlers and the sheer number they had at their disposal. For Massey Vanier, when I broke the news to their Head Coach Jason Senkerik, he was floored, further adding that Massey Vanier had not won a banner in wrestling since the 1970s.

The coaching staff at Massey Vanier deserves lots of praise for guiding their Girls team to the banner this year

This got me thinking about the effects that winning that banner could have on his program. First and foremost, I can’t speak from experience since I’ve never won a banner at any level in wrestling, whether it’s at High School or University. While I had many individual accomplishments in wrestling, that Team Title always eluded me. The closest I came was in 2014 with my old program at Vincent Massey Collegiate. My girls team finished in 2nd place, just behind KSS. I remember vividly the swing match that essentially costed us the title. Suffice it to say, I’ve never come close since.

I’ve come to realize that winning a banner requires a very specific set of circumstances. You need the right athletes at the right time and you need an ample amount of them. The timing of all this can be planned to a certain extent, but is extremely hard to plan for without an infrastructure in place to feed into your program. In the states, this infrastructure is already in place as American colleges recruit athletes from various high schools around the country. Those athletes have been scouted and developed through a network that consists of schools and clubs. Scholarships are offered to help entice athletes to attend a certain university, which in turn will hopefully bring some success to the program. Naturally if all goes well and the team experiences success, this will bring attention to each respective program and will in turn help with recruitment for the future at all levels.

PGO has been a model of consistency since they entered the league

This however is a chicken and the egg example. In order to have success, good recruitment would be in order. But in order to have good recruitment, you need success. This can be infuriating to say the least since it may require luck to have good recruitment, which in turn, will lead to success. In our high schools at this time, most athletes will have never wrestled before, making the prospect of a feeder system non-existent.

I look at the schools that have won banners in my time as both an athlete and a coach. When I was an athlete, KSS reigned supreme. They had it all in order to be successful at the high school level. They had the athletes, the coaches, the facilities and the community support. Only once, did the now defunct program at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School dethrone them in my five year stint as a high school athlete.

KSS has been a dominant force for many years

Since that time, many things have changed. Girls have been added to the league, complete with their own banner, more teams have won the league as Loyola, Selwyn PGO have taken over in the boys while in the girls league, not one school has yet to establish themselves as a dominant force. The league itself has both increased and decreased in size throughout the years as programs have been started and ended as coaches have come and gone and switched schools. Suffice it to say, the league has been in flux for the better part of the last thirty years.

So, getting back to my original statement of what winning a banner would do for a program. The best example that I can think of is Beurling Academy. A relatively younger program when you look at the other’s that are currently in the league, Beurling Academy has won two Boys banners and one Girls banner. The fact that both their wins in the boys division were very close, followed by a girls win shows how much momentum winning a banner can have. If you look at Loyola’s dominant performances along with PGO in recent years, it also shows that having that cohort of athletes coming together at the right time can not only win you the championships, but create a legacy for years after.

So, with recency on their side, I can only imagine what winning the banner will do for the program at Massey Vanier. As one of the older programs that had disappeared for a while and then reappeared, it’s nice to see them have some success. Here’s hoping my current program can emulate this success as Royal West Academy looks to recapture some of its glory that they had in the 1980s and 90s. Only time will tell.

Hopefully my new team at Royal West Academy can recapture some its old glory