The Cochrane Cowboys Wrestling Club grappled their way to eight medals at the Golden Bear High School Invitational, Feb. 2, in Edmonton.
In their respectful weight classes and age groups, Connor Pointen, Nick Hooper and Jaityn Labelle all won gold. Silver medals were earned by Eli Fines, Keath Dostaler and Catherine Swedlo while Annika Fines and Brendan McGuire won bronze. The team finished fifth in their class out of 32 teams.
Because the tournament is for both junior and senior high school students, it's a perfect fit for the Cowboys. It's also one of the largest high school tournaments in the province, attracting about 550 wrestlers from across Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The tournament was an opportunity to showcase the talents of the club's two senior wrestlers. Currently, the number of senior elite wrestlers numbers only two after several Cowboys--including the McNeices, McKeages, Hunter Smith and Grace Chambers--moved on to compete at the university level.
Connor Pointen was the class of his category, says Frank Dostaler, who's been coaching with the Cowboys for 14 years.
"He's just an absolutely phenomenal athlete and a very strong technical wrestler and he dominated all of his high school opponents," says Dostaler, who believes Pointen is being courted by many universities.
Autumn Shopa finished fifth in her class and Dostaler continues to be impressed with her technique.
"She's just coming into her own. She has a unique wrestling style which isn't common for females. She is strong. tenacious, aggressive athlete and her style wears down other kids and she's very successful with it."
Soon to join the senior high group are a number of junior level wrestlers who all returned with medals from this highly competitive tournament.
Cowboys Eli Fines and Nick Hooper faced each other in the gold medal match in their weight class.
"It was a really strong battle, but Eli made a small technical error and Nick was able to capitalize on. That's what their suppose to do. They're competitors, they practice hard, they train hard and they wrestle hard and they have a great time."
Brendan McGuire and Keath Dostaler also competed in the same class but didn't meet. Both, though, competed against a strong wrestler out of Rocky Mt. House who specializes in a Grecco Roman-style that focuses on throws.
McGuire lost to him but won the bronze medal match. Dostaler met the same wrestler in the final and lost a close one to finish with a silver medal.
"It ended up being a very close match. Keath was ahead by one point and got caught in the last 15 seconds and lost by one point."
Annika Vines lost an early match, but won the rest and claim bronze.
"She wrestled so well. She's so technical and fast, a great student and easy to coach. She's got a really bright future ahead of her."
Catherine Swedlo has continued to improve her technical skills since competing in the 2018 Alberta Winter Games. At this tournament she claimed silver.
"Catherine is turning into a fantastic athlete. She's a great kid and a sound athlete and I couldn't be prouder.".
Jaityn Labelle may not seem aggressive in the practice room but on the mats, she's a gold medalist.
"As one of the other coaches commented this year, she a tournament wrestler. When she gets on the mat there is a difference between what she shows us in the practice room and what she's capable of on the mat and she ended up winning the whole tournament. She's just tenacious on the mat."
While too young to compete in high school tournaments, Dostaler says they also have a number of talented grade 5 and 6 aged wrestlers.
"All of the coaches are very excited about even the younger grade 5 and 6 kids who didn't compete but train in our junior high program "
Several Cochrane Cowboys will be competing in the Winston Churchill Wrestling Classic this Friday and Saturday in Calgary.
Not far away is the Cowboys own tournament, Mar. 2.
"The Cochrane Cowboys tournament has grown over the last 14 years to be a premier event so we tend to get a lot of wrestlers coming from the entire province because everyone knows it's a big tournament and they'll get a lot of matches."