Cochrane Cowboys wrestler Nicholas Hooper has struck gold at the Canada Summer Games as the top 70k male wrestler.
He beat British Columbia wrestler Tejvir Dhinsa in the semifinals by a decision to advance to the gold medal match, where he won by decision over Quebec's Yann Heymug.
Both victories were a chance for a little redemption.
Hooper says beating Dhinsa was one of his largest goals since losing to him at the Canadian cadet trials, where Hooper finished second.
"It felt really good to know that I can hang with him, and he's not the only one, and it depends what type of day we're both having."
Quebec's Heymug beat Hooper in a wild match earlier in the games.
"Both of us had each other flying in the air, it was just a crazy match all around. It was really entertaining and honestly, those are the matches that I signed up for wrestling to do. I love them. Even though I lost that first time, it was definitely one of the best matches of the week, I'd say."
He says he learned from that loss and believes it helped him take home gold.
"First off, I have to be patient. That was the big thing that I've been struggling with for my whole wrestling career. And second off, I shouldn't be afraid to lose, because that was something that was holding me back. I wasn't wrestling because I wanted to wrestle, I was wrestling because I was afraid of losing."
It was Hooper's second medal of the games. Alberta wrestlers won bronze in the team event the day previous. They were undefeated until their final head-to-head with Team Ontario. Ontario squeezed by 25-23 and went on to claim gold against British Columbia.
"Ontario is always the big one that we're looking out for," says Hooper. "We knew we were in for a fight and we trusted in our three years of building, a long time in the making, and we put it all on the mat. We left it all out there and gave them the best fight that they'd had this week."
He says it's been an extremely long season and he and his coach Gordon Peavy have agreed to give each other six weeks off before rolling into next season.
Peavy became Hooper's coach throughout COVID but it wasn't until after restrictions eased that they truly came to know each other.
"Over this past year, he's sacrificed so much for me and I truly love my coach. I couldn't ask for a better guy to follow me around and tell me what to do. He's done so much for me."
Hooper has just turned 17 and was one of the youngest members of Team Alberta.
He's been competing for eight years with both Cochrane Cowboys and St. Timothy High School.
This season, he won gold at the ASAA high school wrestling championship, was second in the Canadian Cadets Team Trials, and third in the Canadian U19 Championships.
He won gold at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games, bronze in the 2018 games, and silver at the 2019 Western Canada Games.
He also competes with the Cochrane Endurance Project.
Annika Fines, who brought home medals for the Cochrane Cowboys for many years before joining the Dinos club, won gold in the 48k weight class.