Manitoba Games lay groundwork for return of high school wrestling

After a 10-plus year hiatus, Sport Manitoba is looking to reinstate amateur wrestling into the school curriculum here in Thompson.

Sport Manitoba representative Kaitlin Kucharski made this clear May 12, when she helped set up a wrestling clinic at the Thompson Regional Community Centre (TRCC) to show some kids what the sport is all about.

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Throughout the morning, Kucharski and a couple of Thompsonites taught Grade 6−12 students how to perform some basic moves, attempting to remove the stigma that wrestling is a “dangerous sport” that requires brute strength alone.

“It’s a rather graceful sport. There’s lots of technique behind it,” said Kucharski, who has about 12 years of wrestling experience under her belt. “So you don’t need to be the strongest person. I’m not the strongest person. I’m really small. But if you have speed and technique, then you can definitely wrestle.”

Kucharski says the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games renewed local interest in wrestling, since the seven-day event prominently featured amateur wrestlers from all over the province, including competitors from northern communities like Cross Lake.

“After the Manitoba Games happened here, there was interest from our northern Sport Manitoba leads that live here in Thompson,” she said. “There was interest from a couple gym teachers … and they saw kids excited about it, so they decided to try and promote it and start this program.”

One local resident set to spearhead this initiative is TRCC employee Lyall Zielke, who competed in this sport at a national level and remembers when Thompson’s last wrestling program was shut down over a decade ago.

“All the coaches kind of moved on and it branched off and then there was no rental space anymore,” he told the Thompson Citizen following Saturday’s clinic. “But we got this mat donated from Sport Manitoba … and then they donated it to us to start a club, to start a new sport in the town.”

Since the public’s been without a wrestling program for a long time, Zielke is going to take it slow at the beginning and stick to the fundamentals when he organizes additional clinics for this summer.

“Everyone around this town probably hasn’t wrestled at all, so we’re going to start at a very basic level,” he said. “So we’ll just start there and work with the kids. See what they like, see what they don’t like about the program and go from there.”

While he’s been away from the sport for a while, Zielke says that he’s ready to step back onto the mat and get a group of 10−20 students ready to wrestle competitively in the fall.

“It’s a great sport to be involved in. There’s self-discipline, you’ll be in great condition,” he said. “It’s kind of a individual sport but you also work as a team, so it’s good for team-building skills as well.”

To find out more about this new wrestling program, please contact Zielke on Facebook or via email at

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