M.L. wrestlers to compete at 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games

On Jan. 18, Gateway Elementary School in Meadow Lake hosted the Team Rivers West wrestling trials. The event began with a practice where athletes had the opportunity to be instructed by coaches from other clubs, and later featured a tournament. More than 60 wrestlers from the Northwest competed. Here, Marlie Bundschuh (right)takes on an opponent from Lloydminster.

On Jan. 18, Gateway Elementary School in Meadow Lake hosted the Team Rivers West wrestling trials. The event began with a practice where athletes had the opportunity to be instructed by coaches from other clubs, and later featured a tournament. More than 60 wrestlers from the Northwest competed. Here, Marlie Bundschuh (right)takes on an opponent from Lloydminster.

by Phil Ambroziak

With visions of gold in their future, Meadow Lake athletes from the Northern Pikes Wrestling Club are gearing up for the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games next month in Prince Albert.

During Team Rivers West trials held during a recent wrestling camp at Gateway Elementary School, five wrestlers qualified for the provincial sporting event set for Feb. 16-22. They include Cain Witzaney, Leroy Murray, Arlan Lumgair, Evan Eide and female competitor Marlie Bundschuh. The remainder of the team will feature wrestlers from other parts of the Northwest district.

“During the trials, wrestlers from different communities came in to compete,” explained Northern Pikes coach Jason Guenther. “In our district, there were spots available for eight boys and seven girls in each weight classification. On the girls side there’s still a number of vacancies because we only had two girls try out for two different classifications. All of the boys, however, had to compete for their respective spots. Of the 54 athletes registered that day, 35 were there for Rivers West trials.”

Much like the Saskatchewan Summer Games, which were held in Meadow Lake in 2012, the Winter Games will feature a series of young athletes from throughout the province competing in multiple sports – this time, obviously, with a winter or indoor-theme. The event has also been described as a celebration of sport and cultural excellence that promotes fair play, a healthy lifestyle and creates both a legacy of enhanced facilities and an enriching experience for participants and fans.

“For the Northern Pikes, this is the first time we’ve ever sent athletes to the Saskatchewan Winter Games,” Guenther noted. “Before we had a Northern Pikes club, I did send athletes from the Carpenter High School wrestling team. There’s always stiff competition from other parts of the province, especially from the Regina and Saskatoon areas.”

While a prior commitment will keep Guenther from attending the Games himself, the local athletes – as well as the other Team Rivers West wrestlers – will be led by coach Ellen Fritz, a teacher from Lloydminster. Managing the team will be Matthew Quesnelle from Gateway Elementary School.

“Leading up to the Games, we’ll continue with our regular practices Monday and Wednesday nights,” Quesnelle said. “We’ll keep doing what we regularly do, but we also have a couple of tournaments between now and then where the wrestlers will be able to see what firsthand what some of their potential opponents are capable of. It will also be interesting to see what strategies they can learn from a different coach, as everyone has their own approach.”

The only medal – a bronze – Meadow Lake has ever earned at the Saskatchewan Winter Games came four years ago.

“This year, I’m hoping for at least one or two gold medals,” Guenther said.

As a sort of precursor to the Games, Evan Eide was able to secure gold at a wrestling tournament held Jan. 25 in Swift Current. Six Northern Pikes members competed with all six earning medals. The other winners included Leroy Murray (silver), Arlan Lumgair (silver), Gabriel Regnier (silver), Orion Craig (Silver) and Corbin Witzaney (bronze).

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