Just one year into the formation of the Howe Sound Secondary wrestling club, its three student athletes are getting ready to hit the mats at the upcoming provincial qualifiers on Feb. 7.
Sherman Hillier, one of the coaches and organizers who helped launch the club last year, told The Chief the club started the season in November, competing mostly on the North Shore and with a competition in Gibsons.
While the last season started with eight students, this year, three have committed to competing. Hillier said the drop wasn't unexpected, as most of last year's athletes were in Grade 11. Now in their senior year at Howe Sound Secondary, many are focusing on their studies, future paths and other sports like basketball and volleyball that share a competition season with wrestling. Others couldn't compete due to injuries not related to wrestling.
All three students — Michaela Hoskin, Adeel Patel and Kim Krogsæter — hope to qualify for provincials, which will be held on Feb. 16.
For Patel and Krogsæter, it's their first year wrestling.
"It's a tough sport, starting in Grade 12," Hillier said. "Now you're wrestling against people who have been wrestling since they were five or six years old. There are clubs out there in the Lower Mainland, so it's very different."
Last year, during the club's first season, Hoskin made it to provincials.
So far this season, she placed twice in two different tournaments on the North Shore. Hillier said Hoskin places in the top six fairly consistently.
"Aside from being a very physical, strong person and obviously a life-long athlete, I can see her focus has increased and her relaxation when she's competing is different than it was last year. That's a big change. Some people never get that," he said.
Relaxing while wrestling, although it sounds at odds with the sport, is important to keep an athlete's movements loose and in the moment.
"What's common with wrestlers when they start, is you don't relax when you're wrestling. It takes a long time. I think because she's a competitive athlete in other sports, she has learned how to relax her mind on the mat and think about how to get through situations. That takes a long time — she got to that fairly quickly."
Another change the club has seen this year is their two new coaches, Emily Richardson and Sarah Drechsler.
Though neither woman was available for an interview before press deadline, Hillier said Drechsler grew up wrestling in high school on the North Shore, before wrestling on the UBC team. She also practices jiu-jitsu locally. Richardson wrestled at Carson Graham Secondary in North Vancouver and was on the SFU team, and the national team — competing at the world level.
Hillier said the two women's technical ability is a big bonus to the student athletes learning from them.
The club practices twice a week for about two hours. (They're occasionally joined during their warm-up by the mountain biking club.) Hillier said they review their matches and go through the technical breakdown of different moves, often analyzing videos.
"It takes a long time to learn a move. Really, it's repetition. Part of it is muscle memory," Hillier said. "It just becomes second nature to you when it occurs in a live match."
Hillier would still like to start a wrestling club at Don Ross Middle School. This school year, they've taught wrestling to students during Physical Education classes at HSS and hope to bring it to P.E. classes at Don Ross. Hillier said they'd also like to host a wrestling clinic for youth, but require a space to offer it.
*This story has been updated to correct the date of the provincial qualifiers, which is on Feb. 7, 2020.