Cochrane Cowboys wrestling alumni continue to shine on the national stage.

Isaiah Springer, Nick Hooper and Annika Fines recently medalled at the USports National Wrestling Championship hosted in Guelph, ON. Springer and Hooper captured gold and Fines won bronze.

Springer, 22, has been captain of the UAlberta Golden Bears for four years and struck gold in the 82kg weight class against Judah Arthurs of USaskatchewan.

Previous to that, he won gold in the Canada West championship that saw the Golden Bears claim the banner for third consecutive season.

It caps off what has been an exceptional season in what may be his last in USports. He went 14-0, outscoring his opponents 150 to 17. He was named Canada West wrestler of the year for the second consecutive season.

Isaiah SpringerIsaiah Springer went 14-0 on his season and was named Canada West wrestler on the year for the second consecutive year. (Photo/UAlberta)

"I liked how I wrestled in this last tournament because I was very precise with my attacks, and I was able to really see my attacks before they were there and be able to capitalize on them."

A knee injury the season before saw him go under the knife twice and he spent the summer rehabilitating and training.

"I went up a weight class just to make sure my body stays strong, and it all paid off."

Springer has completed his education degree and is looking to enter the workforce before pursuing his masters. He has two years remaining in wrestling eligibility in USports.

An ankle injury is currently holding him back from further competition this season.

"I'm taking steps to address it so I'm not going to senior nationals. Once that's healed up, we'll make decisions from there."

Just before Springer's gold medal match, Calgary Dinos rookie Nick Hooper, 18, won gold in the 76kg weight class against Brock University's Max Budgey.

Hooper has continued to enjoy success after winning back-to-back ASAA provincial championships with the St. Timothy High School wrestling team.

"It's been one of my dreams," says Hooper. "It's been a goal of mine since I've been able to start setting wrestling goals. I didn't know if I'd get it my first year, but I knew I'd be working towards it. Now I have four more years to try and do the same thing."

Hooper combinedNick Hooper earned his first medal at a young age in Medicine Hat and is now a USport champion. (photos submitted) 

Hooper got his varsity career off to a perfect start in late October, winning 15-5 in a dual against Saskatchewan. That same weekend, he won gold at the Dinos Invitational, and was named Canada West Male Wrestler of the Week.

He clearly remembers the anxiety of his first collegiate competition and the feeling of uncertainty as to whether he belonged there. That doubt disappeared during warmups.

"I was, like, I'm here, I deserve to be here, and I'm going to go out and show everybody that I do belong. I went out and I wrestled better than I had in a while for that first tournament. It was a great, great, great first university tournament."

He's now training for the junior nationals being held in Ottawa, Mar. 14 to 17. Success there would land him on Canada's team in the world championship.

annikaFormer Cochrane Cowboy Annika Fines won bronze at the USport national championship. (photo/ Laurel Jarvis)

Also a rookie with the Calgary Dinos, Annika Fines, 18, won bronze in the 56kg weight class. She needed just 1:16 of her match before pinning Kendall Dettloff of Western in her medal performance.

The week before, she claimed silver in the Canada West Championship and helped the Dinos women's team's win the banner.

Fines, who resides is Calgary's Tuscany community, joined the Cochrane Cowboys after discovering the sport in junior high.

"It was actually my older brother who wanted to do a bit more with it and he wanted to find a club, so I just followed him along to the Cowboys. There was a very strong sense of community there and the expectations of the athletes and the coaches got me hooked on the sport."

Due to scheduling problems, she went on to join the Jr. Dinos Club to continue to develop her skills.

She says being able to train in the Dinos varsity room while in grade 12 and compete in some university tournament helped prepare her for the transition to university-level wrestling. The biggest adjustment was the higher stakes of how her performance impacting the standings of her entire team.

"I found that to be a little bit nerve-wracking, but the transition wasn't too bad."

Fines has four years of eligibility remaining while she continues her studies at the Faculty of Kinesiology. She intends to give chase to both individual and team gold with the Dinos.

"The girls team is in a big building phase, so I think that could be on the horizon for us within the next few years."

Cochrane's wrestling community has produced many champions in USports, national and international level. There remains a close bond between these wrestlers and their families.

Hooper says he received some valuable pointers from Callum and Connor McNiece, both Cowboys and St. Tim's alumni, to prepare for his title match against Budgey.

Nick, Annika and IsiaihAnnika Fines and Isaiah Springer with Nick Hooper at the USports nationals. There remains a close bond between wrestlers who developed their prowess in Cochrane. (photos submitted)

Springer was warming up for his medal match when Hooper was on the mats.

"It was just incredible to see," says Springer. "It just made my heart smile, and as soon as he won, I knew that I also had to win to bring it back for that double Cowboys win. It really inspired me seeing how he wrestled, and his determination."

Hooper says he catches up with Springer whenever the opportunity arises.

"We had a talk after both of our matches and just how good it was to be able to represent the Cowboys and St. Tim's together. Winning together was kind of a crazy experience, especially for me, because I've always looked up to him."

Hooper is proud to be able to continue the tradition established by other St. Tim's wrestlers.

"There was so much wrestling prestige already at that school when I got there, and I wanted to be added to that list of great wrestlers that have gone through this school. I feel like this is one of those things that people might associate with when they see my name on the wall."

Springer also attended St. Tim's before moving to Edmonton and appreciates the support he received there and from the Cochrane Cowboys. He speaks highly of the Cowboys coaches of the day, Vern McNeice, James McKeage and Frank Dostaler

"They were all coaches when I was growing up. They definitely laid the foundation to not just the athlete, but the person I am today, so I'm extremely thankful to those people."


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