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WOSSAA wrestling

 Twenty wrestlers heading to OFSAA


   Parkside leads the way qualifying eight and taking the overall WOSSAA team title

   while St. Joe's sends six, Dorchester, four and Central Elgin, the Holt brothers



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By Rob J. Ross 

LONDON, ON. - Gavin Eldridge took the short way. So did Maddie King and Peyton Brodie Grubb. Steph Boyko, Owen Bisschop and Mary Claire Haasen endured tougher paths. However, no one compared to Liam Bacon's long, scenic route.

There may have been different ways at the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Associations (WOSSAA) wrestling championships, held at Saunders Secondary School, but all led to the desired destination, OFSAA.

Complete top six WOSSAA results.

Twenty wrestlers from the Parkside Stampeders, St. Joseph's Rams, Dorchester Beavers and Central Elgin Titans, have qualified for the high school provincial championships, March 4-5, in Ottawa.

Each of the 16 boys and 13 girls' weight division gold medalists secured a berth at OFSAA. The silver medalist could be challenged by the third place finisher, for the second berth, if the two wrestlers had not already fought earlier in the meet.

Parkside won the WOSSAA overall team title, led by five gold medalists, Maddie King (girls' 47.5-kg), Gavin Eldridge (boys' 57.5-kg), Peyton Brodie-Grubb (girls' 61-kg), Cole Moore (83-kg) and Brady Johnson (boys' 130-kg).

"It was very good day for Parkside wrestling," coach Alicia Rowlands said. "We only had two that didn't place top six. Even our rookies did very well."

Eight wrestlers to OFSAA may be a Stampeders' all-time high.

Sisters Julie Boyko (girls' 57.5-kg) and Steph Boyko (girls' 67.5-kg) took home silver, while Emma Penner (girls' 61-kg) placed third, but challenged the second place finisher and won for her spot at OFSAA.

St. Joe's sends Liam Bacon (boys' 61-kg), Mary Clare Haasen (girls' 64-kg) and Krystian Krzyzewski (boys' 89-kg), along with Kendall Dettloff (girls' 54-kg), Patrick Salvador (boys' 77-kg) and Thomas Fortier (boys' 95-kg), the latter three attend different schools but train with the Rams.

"We're very happy on how we've done. We definitely wrestled to our potential today and we're super happy on how the kids did," Rams' coach Wolf Schweitzer.

Dorchester has Kolton Reading, (boys' 38-kg) Nick Lynch (boys' 38-kg), Owen Bisschop (67.5-kg) and Josh Smith (boys' 72kg) heading to the provincial meet.

The Holt brothers, Dalton (boys' 83-kg) and Adam (boys' 89-kg) will represent the Titans.

After two years of leaving WOSSAA as runner-up, Eldridge finally stands a top the podium.

"It's a phenomenal feeling because the past few years it's been silver and silver, so it feels great to win it this year, said Eldridge, who pinned long time rival, London Beal's Diego Worsley. "I've wrestled Diego a bunch of times and it has always gone back and forth between us, but this year it's been a lot better for me."

Eldridge arrived at the meet well rested.

"I can thank having eight hours of sleep last night and I even had a nap before," said Elridge. "I feel a lot better and have been training a lot harder, to get as good as I can be for this."

King made quick work of her division, with a 10-0 win on points and a pair of pins, to capture back to back gold medals, but up one weight class from last year. Two years ago King took silver.

"It feels really motivating, because it makes me feel that I can get farther at OFSAA if I'm maintaining the top place in my area," said the Grade 11 athlete. "Last year I got sixth (at OFSAA). I made my goal. This year I want to medal. I really want to get gold, but we'll just see how it goes."

Just don't call her queen, like London Central's Asha Chawla, moments prior to their golden match.

"That's her problem for saying that," said King, who doesn't know why. "When she told me I was the queen, I felt like I was going to win. She got on the mat and I just pinned her."

Brodie-Gubb was not concerned about the outcome of her gold medal match against London Central's Esther Clarke.

"It's a lot of mental for me. I just want to out wrestle myself. Today I feel like I did that," said Brodie-Grubb.  "In my matches before I would work on things I need to work on and try harder the next match. It's a constant improvement type of thing."

Brodie-Grubb, who makes a return to OFSAA, pinned London Central's Esther Clarke in her final.

"My goal was to go to OFSAA because it's (Ottawa). It's more a trip (than previous hosts Windsor or Toronto)," Brodie Grubb said. "This year I would like to make it to the second day (but) just getting there is a good enough accomplishment for me."

Boyko aimed for gold but when London Beal's Paige Baynham got the better of her in the gold match, Bokyo had to regroup quickly when London Oakridge's Inaz Maghsud challenged for the OFSAA berth.

"Once she (Baynham) got control of my wrists it was pretty much done because she shot really well. Then I tried to sprawl but she tossed me and took advantage. I kind of choked in that one," said Boyko, of the gold match. Going to OFSAA motivated her to deny Maghsud's challenge taking the match with a pin. "I was nervous at first, but then I got into the zone and destroyed her."

Boyko, making her second appearance, is aiming to advance to the second day at OFSAA and perhaps a top six placement.

While Boyko was being challenged, Haasen was doing the challenging and against her own St. Joe's teammate.

Haasen had just defeated Beal's Gracie Henricks, for third place, when the Grade 11 student challenged Ivana Csinos, who lost the 64-kilogram gold medal match to Beal's Brianna Stark.

"I wanted to go to OFSAA, but at the same time I didn't want to kick out my teammate. My friend told me I better give it my all so I did. Two on one, that's my go to move. That's what I do best," said Haasen. "It feels pretty good after the disappointment of having to kick out my teammate."

Bisschop also challenged for an OFSAA spot and beat Beal's Spencer Ye, in the 67.5-kilogram match.

"It feels really good. I don't how else to explain it. I'm just really happy right now," said Bisschop. "The key was what my coach (Jack Gunnell) was telling me to do, get wrist control and I was really trying to set up the ankle pick. Unfortunately I didn't get it, but the wrist control threw him off a bit."

Bisschop finished at 4-1, losing only to gold medalist London Saunders' Ethan Parkhouse.

"He had really good hand fighting,' said Bisschop, who lost 3-0 on points. "I couldn't quite get passed his hands for the legs. Once I sprawled on him, he's really strong, so he was holding on to my leg really good."

Bisschop's Dorchester teammate Josh Smith lost the 72-kilogram gold to Oakridge's Ideen Maghsud.

"I was thinking if I can get him on his back I can keep him there. But he squirmed out. So I was trying to play it safe and kind of point him," said Smith.  "The throw (four points for Maghsud) really threw the points off and kind of kerfuffled me a little bit. Then the time ran out."

The Grade 10 student is looking forward to the trip to OFSAA.

"It feels amazing. I had people say I could, but I didn't know the competition because it is my first year," said Smith. "It's in Ottawa and I like to travel. Top 15 at OFSAA would be great."

Going from rookie to veteran wrestlers, Titans' Dalton Holt had another battle with long time rival and friend, Parkside's Cole Moore, for the 83-kilogram gold medal.

"It was a really hard, fought match. I thought I had him and then he thought he had me. It ended up he beat me today," said Holt, who qualifies for OFSAA for a second consecutive year, this time younger brother, Adam, will be competing. Adam took silver in the boys' 89-kilo class.

"I'm quite happy. It was a great experience last year. I'm hoping to do a bit better this year. I'm looking forward to it, especially with my brother. I'm so happy he's able to come along. It'll be a great family experience and we can bond over some wrestling."

It will also be family trip for the Boykos, with Julie and Steph.

Julie left a tough showing at the Thames Valley Regional Athletics (TVRA) conference championships behind, to take home the silver medal, only losing to London Central's Jonelle Clarke.

"I'm in Grade nine so I never expected to make it to OFSAA," said Boyko, who won a key match over St. Joe's Kailey Meehan. "She always does a head and arm throw, so I made sure not to get caught in that. I won against her and that was surprising because she beat me bad at TVRA."

Older sister Steph, gave Julie some tough advice, be tough on opponents.

"Go until they're crying for mercy," Julie said.

There was no crying from Rams' Bacon, who deserves a spot on a Wheaties cereal box after his day at WOSSAA.

Bacon appeared in seven matches, thanks to losing his opening 61-kilogram tilt, but the Grade 11 student finished with an OFSAA berth, beating Saunders' Michael Roberts in a challenge match.

"Liam had a hard path. He wrestled the most matches (seven) out of everybody. He might have had to work the hardest for his spot to Ottawa," said Rams' coach Schweitzer. "Liam's cardio is amazing. He remained focused. He didn't get down after the loss. He kept on looking forward, one match at a time."

Bacon has improved upon his WOSSAA placement each year, going from fifth, in 2017, to fourth a year ago and now third spot.

"It feels great, even if I came from a loss this morning" said Bacon. "Some of the matches went pretty quick. I got a quick pin which helped."

Dettloff (London CCH), Salvador and Fortier (both London Mother Teresa), train at St. Joe's but represent their schools.