By Darren Lum
Published March 6 2018
The Red Hawks wrestling team has reason to celebrate after the success at the Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics (COSSA) on Feb. 22 in Haliburton.
They not only finished as the third best school out of 14 area high schools and with the third best girls’ teams but will also have five Hawks compete at this year’s all-provincials OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championship from March 5 to 7 in Windsor.
The team was led by a COSSA championship title won by Aidan Coles who is a Grade 11 student.
Coles a third year wrestler felt a sense of relief when he learned he made the all-provincials by going undefeated and capturing the COSSA title in the 95 kilogram weight category.
“You’re always scared that you’re never going to make it but this year [after making it] you want to do better than you did last year so at the same time there is still a challenge ahead” he said.
Coles loved last year for the opportunity to have a new experience which included the level of competition and just getting to enjoy the hotel’s facilities such as the pool.
“OFSAA is cool because it is a new experience and being able to see all the good wrestlers. We’re used to being the best wrestlers in our division and then you go there and every wrestler is the best wrestler of their division so the competition is a whole new step [higher]” he said.
He admits he was a little nervous before competing last year but once he competed everything disappeared. It’s something he’ll be ready for this time around.
Although Coles finished first at COSSA he is fully aware and expects tougher competition so isn’t letting this title win make him get too confident.
Grade 12 students Matt Manning and Emily Klose both finishing second at COSSA are on a mission to make the best of this year’s opportunity in their fourth and final year of high school.
Emily who wrestled in the 61 kilogram weight class agrees with her coach and dad that making OFSAA last year was a victory but improving at the all-provincials is the new goal for her this year.
Manning agreed with her and will push to do better than last year’s quick exit.
Moving down a weight class from 61 kilograms has meant a few changes to Emily’s approach to opponents this year.
“In 64 [kilograms] a lot of girls [go] down from higher weight classes so they are a lot bigger structurally I guess. I’ll be wrestling against girls that are shorter and narrower” she said. “Taller girls tend to use different moves so that’ll make a bit of difference.”
Manning has wrestled all four years of attending HHSS.
He acknowledged getting to compete at OFSAA in his final year is satisfying.
“It’s nice to make it the final year. Go out doing well” he said.
Cole did say he appreciated the home town advantage for the support he and his teammates had at COSSA
“It’s always nice to be able to have people appreciate [our efforts]. For a lot of people wrestling is like a foreign sport. Nobody knows a lot about it” he said.
He adds it’s great for family and friends to learn what the sport really is about despite some of the peculiar misconceptions. One of them being biting Emily said.
COSSA silver medalist Hannah Riopelle chose to move up a weight category from 41 kilograms to 44 kilograms this year. Her preparation included having wrestling partners that were heavier than her to adjust to moving up.
COSSA third place finisher and Grade 10 Nic Graham was an athlete of few words but said getting to advance to the all-provincials is exciting.
This group all being repeat all-provincial qualifiers encouraged and told their teammate Graham to just focus on doing his best.
Besides Manning and Emily who will graduate the team next year are expected to also lose Noelle Dupret Smith to graduation.
Despite the losses Klose believes the team has the potential to do well. This stems from the return of Coles and young wrestlers such as rookie and Grade 9 student Connie Oh who finished third at COSSA.
“She had a fantastic tournament. She was taking it to senior athletes which was great” he said referring to how wrestlers compete against athletes in all grades in respective weight classes.
The 16-member wrestling team have a lot to be proud about finishing as the third best school in the Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics.
This quality and skill is only developed after years of work in a place where everyone on the team is helping each other be their best Klose said. It’s why there has been success.
“The mat room is only as strong as the team. You can have one great individual but they won’t peak unless the mat room supports him [or her]. We’re really happy. It’s a cohesive group and that helps elevate everyone’s play” he said referring to himself and to coach Dan Fockler.
The team includes (besides those already mentioned were Brooklyn Spence Tyler Wilson Ethan Coles Tyler McGovern Owen Wootton Eli Samson Austin Weller Jackson Garthshore and Connor Spence.
Klose attributes the success and the quality displayed by his wrestlers to hard work and time put into the sport.
“It’s a sport where you grow over years and the people that are going on have had a lot of mat time so whether it’s tournaments around here … a few have been to OFSAA before. Some have been in tournaments in Brampton. All of that builds in to their mat experience” he said. “Hopefully that extends to the OFSAA mat. We’ll see. It should.”