A gold-medal finish in the zone championships and multiple silver medals in the provincial event has made this past season one to remember for the Salmon Arm Secondary wrestling team.
Made up of wrestlers from the Jackson and Sullivan campuses of Salmon Arm Secondary, as well as from Shuswap Middle School, the team fields members across age and weight categories for competitions.
This year the team boasted strong overall performance, in addition to some remarkable individual achievements.
The final provincial placements saw Elijah Lazar and his younger brother, Hayden, both claim silver medals, while Eve Maxwell placed fifth overall in her category. At the zone championships, every member of the team placed on the podium.
Elijah Lazar, currently finishing his Grade 11 year at SAS, has been wrestling since sixth grade and found a passion for the fierce individual competition.
“Taking up wrestling was probably one of the best decisions I have made. I just kind of fell in love with it immediately as I progressed,” he says. “It’s just you on the mat, you don’t have to rely on anybody else. And it’s just such an adrenaline rush when you step on the mat and you know it is just you going against someone else; it’s your chance to show that you are the best.”
Over the past several years – which included four B.C. Championships with a lowest placing of second – Lazar has seen some doors open for him in the sport. A gold-medal finish at the zone championships propelled him to provincials, where a silver medal got him on the Canadian Institute of Sport list of elite athletes. He plans on continuing to wrestle as he moves on to university, building off experience and connections he made as part of the SAS team.
“I just think our team has gotten a lot better this year and hopefully we just keep on moving up over the next season. I found it really cool to go to the different camps, there was one woman who was a bronze medalist in the Olympics, and when I go down to Surrey I train with the current women’s 72-kilo world champion. It is really cool to be surrounded by people like that,” he says.
Another member of the team, Eve Maxwell, has made it clear she is a contender in the sport by competing against – and beating – wrestlers several years older than her. Despite being a Grade 9 student, her weight class pits her against senior athletes in Grades 11 and 12.
“Once I started doing it I loved it so much. I like the competitive nature about it, I like that it is all on you and not on anyone else,” she says. “I like the tournaments the best, it’s just so fun to meet all the different people and to try your best against other people who are just as good as you”
Coach Ray Munsie says, for the team as a whole, their results keep them coming back for more.
“I think success keeps them passionate. They have been extremely successful,” he begins. “Beyond expectations as a team. We took 10 wrestlers to provincials and three of them placed on the podium, five more place in the top eight in their first year. For them to do that well in their very first year against kids who are more experienced and older is a real tribute to them.”