Crushers medal at provincials
Lorne Akins wrestling team awarded 14 medals at Provincial Junior Olympics
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
The Provincial Junior Olympics brought out the very best from the Lorne Akins Crush wrestling team with podium finishes and personal bests.
The Crushers sent 22 grapplers to provincials last Saturday in Hinton and 14 returned home with medals – three gold, six silver and five bronze.
The junior and senior girls were also rewarded in their respective team divisions and the senior boys were bronze medallists.
“I’m extremely proud of what Crush wrestling accomplished this year. All of the wrestlers improved so much and I’m very proud of all them,” said head coach Craig Baba.
Makena Krueger repeated as provincial champion by pinning teammate Samantha Duckworth with a hip toss.
“It’s easy when you know what that person is capable of,” said Krueger, 13.
It took the Grade 8 Crusher 29 seconds to win gold in the 90-kilogram final after placing first in the 70-kg division last year.
“It’s the same feeling as last year, it’s awesome,” said Krueger.
She described wrestling as “an awesome sport” and is looking forward to three-peating next year.
“In Grade 7 I worked harder. In Grade 8 it slowed down a bit so I have to pick it up a bit more in Grade 9,” said the bronze medallist at the all-girls’ tournament last month at Mother Mary High School in Edmonton.
Baba was happy to see Krueger duplicate last year’s success.
“Makena was very focused and very excited to compete at provincials,” he said. “She practises very hard and being a second-year wrestler she was able to demonstrate a lot of moves with the coaches. She is one of the leaders of the team.”
Bryana Perlette defeated two opponents on points to capture the 60-kg gold medal in her first tournament since breaking her right wrist at the St. Cecilia meet in December in Edmonton.
“It was really cool because I won only a bronze medal in my first tournament because I broke my wrist, so this was exciting,” said the Grade 7 Crusher.
Perlette, 12, was “nervous, but felt good,” going into provincials after her wrist healed up.
“When Bryana was fully recovered she returned to practice and worked very hard,” Baba said. “She is a very powerful wrestler and at the provincials she overpowered her opponents.”
The first-year Crusher would recommend wrestling to anyone who likes sports.
“I just like the fact that you got to wrestle people and it was a competition where you weren’t hurting them.”
The third time at provincials was the charm for Chance March, the 51-kg gold medallist.
“I was very happy for Chance that he was able to end his Grade 9 year with a gold medal at provincials,” Baba said. “He has amazing technique and skill. He worked extremely hard in practice and his provincial gold medal capped off a marvelous season.”
In the best-of-three playoff for gold, March won the first two matches and lost the third.
“It felt really good because there is not that many gold medals that come home from provincials usually,” March said. “It’s also one of the hardest tournaments of the year so it just felt really good to actually win a gold, especially since it’s my last year.”
March, 14, added some new moves to his repertoire and it paid off in a season highlighted by winning his weight class at the St. Cecilia meet and placing fourth at the very tough Paperweight Invitational Tournament at the University of Alberta.
“I did a lot better than in my previous years. I just felt a lot more confident going into my matches.”
This season marked the first time Crush founder Barrie Schulha wasn’t coaching the team. The popular Lorne Akins teacher retired after 34 years of service with the longest-running junior high sports program in St. Albert following the 2012 provincials, when the Crushers won 21 medals, two short of the team’s record haul.
Baba, his longtime co-coach, didn’t miss a beat as the team’s new floor general.
“It was certainly different not having Mr. Schulha around at practices this year, but he came and cheered us on at most of the tournaments. He made the trip to Hinton for provincials and we were all very happy to see him,” Baba said.
“For myself, it was a far different experience taking charge of the team on my own, although I was extremely lucky to have so many former wrestlers from years past come back to help coach and I couldn’t have done it without them.”