Collegiate meet caps busy day of wrestling at Peacock

Matthew Gourlie
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Wrestling in Moose Jaw is booming.

The local wrestling community and the University of Regina Cougars men’s wrestling program did what they could Thursday to held feed its growth.

The Cougars held a dual meet with Minot State University from North Dakota at Peacock in the first collegiate wrestling exhibition held in the city.

The Moose Jaw high school program began with 6-8 wrestlers four years ago and now has 36 full-time participants and close to 50 that take part. That spike in numbers caught they eye of the Cougars long-time head coach Leo McGee.

He praised local coaches Ward Strueby, Rob Villeneuve, Kelly Busch and Tom Busch for their work at the club and high school level.

“There was such a tradition here before and it slid away and boom, now it’s back,” said McGee. “They have, in my mind, the fastest-growing, biggest club program in Canada right now. It’s right here at Peacock high school in Moose Jaw.”

Under McGee, the Regina program won the school’s first two CIS national titles in ’97 and ’98, plus 10 Canada West titles. McGee said he wanted to promote the school and the quality of CIS athletics in communities that don’t often get the chance to see them.

“For the rest of Saskatchewan they don’t really get to see intra-collegiate athletics,” said McGee. “We want to take our product to Saskatchewan. When we won our first and second national championship we had two kids from Regina on that team. The rest were from all over Saskatchewan. Moose Jaw has been such a feeder system for us over the years: the Nimegeers, the Kells, the Gilmores, it goes on and on.”

The dual meet was part of a full day of wrestling at the school. The day began with members of the Moose Jaw high school wrestling team putting on a clinic in gym classes for Grade 9 Peacock students. Those high school wrestlers then had an intra-squad dual meet and that was followed by a meet between elementary school aged wrestlers from the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Wrestling Club.

“We’re just trying to grow the sport in the province, from our little kids in the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Wrestling program to our high school program to the university level. It’s a great night for Moose Jaw and a good night for wrestling in the province,” said Strueby, Peacock’s vice-principal.

The day concluded with a nine-match dual meet against a very good Minot State program. Minot State’s assistant coach Plamen Paskalev is a two-time Olympian from Bulgaria who finished fourth at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Minot State team features wrestlers from two European countries and across the U.S. including Florida, California, Texas and New York.

A young Cougars team lost 26-16.

“One of the ways to be successful is to wrestle really strong competition. For us to have the opportunity to wrestle a Division II school here at home in Saskatchewan in freestyle wrestling — it doesn’t get better than that,” said McGee.  “Their skill is high-end. They do a great job of recruiting. They have kids from all over the United States. For us, that’s what we need, we need to see that. As this group matures we’ll progress as a program and get better and stronger.”

The Moose Jaw wrestlers train at the U of R get twice a week as they look to improve as well. The Kinsmen Wrestling club is going to Swift Current this weekend and will take 40 wrestlers — including 15 high school wresters — to Edmonton. There is a strong local contingent for the Sask Winter Games in February.

Moose Jaw will host the SAWA Freshie and Pee Wee provincial championship that will feature the top wrestlers under the age of 10.

While Moose Jaw is producing a growing number of quality young wrestlers, McGee sees plenty of value in the growing participation numbers.

“The other thing they get here ... competition is important, yes, and so are medals and awards, but the most important thing – you see those little kids out there today and as a parent you know where they are, you know what they’re doing and they come home tired. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?” asked McGee.

Organizations: University of Regina Cougars, Minot State University, Moose Jaw Kinsmen Wrestling Club

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, California, Saskatchewan Canada West Regina North Dakota Minot United States Gilmores Bulgaria Florida Texas Swift Current Edmonton February.Moose Jaw

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