Over 20 northern residents sacrificed their entire weekend to learn the fundamentals of amateur wrestling at the Bill Comaskey Wellness Centre in Thompson.
Serving as a follow-up to Sport Manitoba’s free wrestling clinic from back in the spring, this three-day development camp, which took place Oct. 26−28, was much larger in scale and run by a coaching staff made up entirely of top-tier professional athletes.
Coach Leah Ferguson took charge throughout this weekend-long event and used her years of experience wrestling in domestic and international competitions, including the 2012 Olympic Games in London, to teach the participants about proper fitness, nutrition and technique.
“I want the kids to really have a sense of accomplishment,” she told the Thompson Citizen. “I want every kid to leave camp and know that they’re super strong and their bodies are really capable.”
Ferguson attempted to hammer this point home through gradual escalation. Whereas the first session was primary dedicated to basic techniques and fitness testing, the next two days focused on more complex moves, exercises and sport psychology.
“I think it went well. The kids actually maintained the whole three hours, which is impressive,” said Ferguson following the first session on Friday. “It’s a lot of stuff, so we basically went through the whole foundation of everything you need to wrestle.”
This three-day affair also served as a learning experience for local coach Lyall Zielke, who’s been trying to restart Thompson’s wrestling program which has been dormant for around a decade.
So far, Zielke said he’s managed to attract a steady group of around 10 participants throughout the four or five meetings they’ve hosted during this current school year, and is looking forward to incorporating Ferguson’s advanced coaching techniques into his own program.
“We’re just getting into it, doing the basics and once we get a little better, a little more technique down, we’re going to look for tournaments,” he said. “We plan on hitting hopefully at least one, maybe two this [school] year.”
Sport Manitoba’s latest event in Thompson also attracted participants from nearby Cross Lake, some of whom wrestled in that very same facility during the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games.
Coach Kendall Robinson said he travelled to Thompson for this weekend camp to introduce some of his newer athletes to the sport and make connections with local wrestling enthusiasts like Zielke.
“I’m hoping to have a good time with the kids, to get to know the wrestling club that they’re starting here and hoping to have them come up to Cross Lake to have a wrestling week with us or us come down to have a wrestling week with them,” said Robinson.
Moving forward, Ferguson said that the best way for coaches like Zielke and Robinson to grow their programs in Thompson and Cross Lake is by maintaining a consistent schedule.
Otherwise, she encourages anyone, regardless of age, sex, or body type, to try their hand at competing in amateur wrestling, especially with the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games being right around the corner.
“If you’ve ever rough-housed ever, which is every person I’ve ever met in my life, you’d probably benefit and like the sport,” said Ferguson. “And you burn, I think, three times as many calories in a wrestling go as you do in any other physical activity. So it’s just the best thing to get your kids into and the most natural thing too.”
Zielke’s next local wrestling meet-up is taking place Nov. 3 at the Bill Comaskey Wellness Centre from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anybody is welcome to attend.
To find out more about this local wrestling program, call Zielke at 204-679-4625 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.