Markland’s Bailey Williams has a tight grip around the waist of his St. John’s/North opponent.
After a brief struggle, Bailey grunts, lifts his opponent off his feet and viciously slams his foe to the red wrestling mat in the gymnasium of Riverside Elementary in Shoal Harbour.
A few matches later, and Brian Kelly, also of Markland, is squaring off with another member of the St. John’s team.
After a brief shoulder-and-collar tie up, Kelly attempts a double-leg takedown. Sweeping his opponent’s legs out from under him Kelly lands on top of this opponent, scoring a point.
What do they have in common?
Well, Williams and Kelly are members of the Eastern wrestling squad at the 2014 NL Winter Games being held in Clarenville March 1-9.
Along with Jackson Hutchings and Liam Thornhill, the foursome comprise a small portion of the rebuilding wrestling program at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown.
There were 12 athletes scheduled to compete at the Games, but due to other commitments, were unable to attend the high-profile sporting event.
Despite the drop in numbers, coach Todd Philpott is pleased where his club is.
“We’ve got a core group at Crescent, and I certainly think it is on the upswing,” he said.
At the school, the wrestling Coyotes are 20 strong. It is a number that has dropped since the beginning of the season.
Wrestling has a rich history at Crescent. At its peak, the team featured a full male team and a full female team. There was also an elementary program in the area.
That is not the case now but, Philpott is hoping bringing wrestlers to the Games will help turn things around and helps grow the sport again.
“The boys coming back with their experience to the school, promoting the sport, I think will be a boon for us really,” he said.
Learning the ropes
Liam Thornhill is the most experienced wrestler on the Eastern squad. The Dildo resident has been involved with the sport for the past three years.
He enjoys the competition aspect of the sport. Watching him wrestle, Thornhill is always wearing a smile.
“There’s a lot of action to it,” said Thornhill.
Meanwhile, teammates Kelly and Williams are novices to the sport.
Williams has been wrestling for two years; Kelly just one.
“It’s pretty intense,” Williams noted.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” added Kelly.
Like Thornhill, both are drawn to the challenge of battling an opponent by themselves.
“It’s the only sport I’ve really liked. That, and boxing,” said Kelly.
While they are new to the sport, Philpott sees a lot of potential.
“A lot of them have a lot of natural ability,” he said. “They’ve been taking to wrestling very well.”
The Eastern squad are tied with Labrador for second in two points apiece. Avalon, Western and Mount Pearl/South sit atop the leader board with four points each.