Some of Kelowna’s most passionate wrestlers are heading to the BC Secondary School Wrestling Association championships starting Feb. 17. The students, who come from various schools in Kelowna, have been working hard with wrestling coach Al McAvena to get ready for the championships.
McAvena said there’s a lot of excitement coming from this group of wrestlers.
“In this junior group, there’s some kids that are in their third year, and they just can’t wait to get up here,” said McAvena.
Wrestling may not be the most popular high school or club group sport in Kelowna, but the Central Okanagan Wrestling Association is still seeing consistent numbers from local students looking to get involved in the sport.
“Wrestling’s quite a physically demanding sport, and it can be difficult when at times there’s no one in my weight class (at practice),” said Bryson Burgess, who fights in the 45 kilogram weight class (around 100 pounds). “I’m pretty excited, but also very nervous at the same time (for the championships). And it’s cool we get to travel a lot of places for wrestling.”
McAvena said the wrestlers in the smaller weight classes, like Burgess,’ are perfect for wrestling and developing as the wrestlers fight in weight class groups, and not in age/grade groups.
Some of the increasing difficulties McAvena has seen for students getting into the sport, as wrestling can be very physically demanding, is that they may not be initially in as good as shape as kids from 20 years ago. With 45 years of coaching and wrestling experience, he credits the copious amount of screen-time for the decline in some levels of fitness, but said it still has affected the amount of young students looking to get involved.
Jacob Wall, a KSS student and wrestler, appreciates the team aspects of his smaller junior team.
“It’s a whole lot of fun. Although wrestling isn’t an actual team base sport, our team to me, is one of the most interconnected teams I’ve ever played on, and I’ve done basketball, baseball and soccer,” said Wall. “We go to a bunch of tournaments, have a really good time and try our best, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, and no one gets down on you for it. It’s a tough sport, and you need to try your hardest at practice and in matches.”
While the team trains with one another despite their differences in weight classes, the lone girl in the group, Amanda Epp, doesn’t let that stop her.
“It’s lots of fun. It can be difficult to learn what it’s like to wrestle with girls at tournaments, but it’s a lot of fun to prove that I can still do whatever I set my mind to,” said Epp. “I never really like the team based sports, so I find wrestling was really fun and I feel really confident after I win a match. We’re a small team, but we all have a lot of fun.”
The tight-knit team of wrestlers head to Langley for the championships, and will no doubt face some stiff competition in all of their weight classes, but they will also, without any doubt, have a lot of fun.
To report a typo, email: