Penticton lands wrestling provincials

Sweat will drip and wrestlers will try to wriggle their way out of uncompromising positions.

Sweat will drip and wrestlers will try to wriggle their way out of uncompromising positions.

That is what spectators will be exposed to as the B.C. High School wrestling provincial championship comes to Penticton Feb. 23 to 25 at the Adidas Sportsplex.

Local wrestling coach and host committee chair Tony Ramsay is excited to showcase the sport in the South Okanagan.

“B.C. is a strong wrestling province. Athletes who do well here will do well at nationals,” said Ramsay, who is a former National Association Intercollegiate Association Champion and alternate for the 1984 Olympics.

It’s expected that more than 500 wrestlers in Grades 9 through 12 will compete. Ramsay put in the request at last year’s provincials and won the bid. Philip Cizmic, president of B.C. High School wrestling, said it didn’t take much for Ramsay to sell him on bringing the tournament to the Peach City.

“Everyone was excited as soon as he put the proposal forward,” said Cizmic. “We’re always excited when small communities host provincial championships.”

Cizmic said the mandate is to have the tournament rotate throughout the province to showcase the sport. However, over time, wrestling championships have almost outgrown venues in small communities. That forced them to be held in the Lower Mainland.

“We want people to see the sport and athletes to go to communities they wouldn’t normally go,” he added. “It’s great to see wrestling thriving in small communities.”

Cizmic is confident the tournament will be a success in Penticton because of Ramsay’s enthusiasm and support he has in the community. He feels the sport has grown in Penticton and Ramsay’s background helps.

When it came to finding a venue, Ramsay considered the South Okanagan Events Centre and Memorial Arena, but those options were too expensive.

“I sourced the Adidas Sportsplex. I was driving by one day and said, ‘Why can’t we have it here,’” he said. “I went in and talked to them and it’s going to be great. We just have to bring the seating of course.”

Ramsay likes the size of the facility, which will allow them to place six mats for competition and two additional mats for warm-ups.

According to Ramsay, Penticton has never been host for wrestling provincials.

“I thought it would be a good way to let the city see what amateur wrestling is about,” he said. “Being in the middle of February, there are usually not a lot of events happening at that time of the year. I thought it would be great for the community and businesses.”

Asked the chances that Penticton will have athletes to cheer for, Ramsay said they usually do well at Zones, which is the qualifier for provincials. While phenom Roy Millar, who was provincial champion in 2010 and 2011 and was named the MVP at the 2011 Provincial Championships, has moved on to Simon Fraser University on a scholarship, Ramsay is confident they will have competitors.

“It’s a rebuilding year no doubt given the young wrestlers we have,” said Ramsay “They should at least get a good taste for what it’s all about. Should have some good matches.”

Among the wrestlers Ramsay sees competing in provincials are Lucas Hooper and Austin Anderson.

Assisting the club in hosting the championship are various businesses.

“The Lakeside Resort, the Days Inn and the Sandman Hotel have stepped up with financial support for the event but the wrestling club is going to need more help,” said Sport Tourism co-ordinator for Penticton and Wine Country Tourism Jeff Plant.

Plant will be helping the host committee to access hosting grants and raise sponsorship from the local community. Ramsay also said they are looking for volunteers to help and sponsors. Anyone interested can contact Ramsay at 250-809-6671.