Games an eye-opener for Labrador wrestlers

Kenn Oliver
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Published on March 26, 2010

Shania Caravan, 14, from Gracia Gymnastics, Deer Lake (Western). Coach Kerri Anstey looks on.

Published on March 26, 2010

Emily Bland of the Grand Falls-Windsor host team goes up for the kill against Mount Pearl/South during girls volleyball action at Exploits Valley High Sunday, March 21, 2010. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Bethany Parsons (11) of the Grand Falls-Windsor host team blocks a spike from Mount Pearl South's Michelle Compton during girls volleyball action at Exploits Valley High Sunday, March 21, 2010. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Mount Pearl/South's Michelle Compton spikes against the guard of the host team's Donna Jewer (1) and Bethany Parsons (11). - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Brad Manuel (7) of the Grand Falls-Windsor boys hocket team looks back to see St. John's/North goaltender Michael Collins sprawl to keep his backhand shot from crossing the line. St. John's would win the game at Windsor Stadium, 6-2. - Photo by Kenn Ol

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Figure skater Ashley Bishop, Mount Pearl South.

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Figure skater Shannon Lilly, Labrador City.

Published on March 26, 2010

Emma Holmes competes for St. John's/North in the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games cross-country ski event at the Exploits Valley ski trails on Monday. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Aaron Andrews of Corner Brook and the Western team performs on the parallel bars Monday during the boys' gymnastic competition at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Aaron Andrews of Corner Brook and the Western team performs on the parallel bars Monday during the boys' gymnastic competition at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Aaron Andrews of Corner Brook and the Western team performs on the parallel bars Monday during the boys' gymnastic competition at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Corner Brook's Brian Brewer presents Pamela Budden with her medal after she clocked a time of five minutes and 16 seconds in her 500-metre Para-Nordic cross-country ski event at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Grand Falls-Windsor. -

Published on March 26, 2010

Fans of Exploits Valley High School, the Host team in the male volleyball competition at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games, cheer on the home side during the gold-medal match against Western Tuesday in Grand Falls-Windsor. Western won the fina

Published on March 26, 2010

Members of the Eastern female bowling team at the Provincial Winter Games include (front, from left) Melanie Avery and Emma Manning; (back, from left) Sarah Short, Cassie Bishop and coach Rosetta Avery. - Photo by Dave Newell/Transcontinental Media/The

Published on March 26, 2010

Nick Ash (2) and Jacob Lane (14) of the Gander Collegiate Concordes go up to block a smash by Patrick Churchill of the South West Arm Academy Tigers during the bronze-medal match in the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games boys' volleyball competiti

Published on March 26, 2010

Central's James Collins (9) looks to pound the ball through a couple of Eastern blockers during the boys' volleyball bronze-medal final at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Grand Falls-Windsor. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

The 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games Western Male Volleyball Gold Medal Team. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

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The 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games Eastern Male Volleyball Bronze Medal Team. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Published on March 26, 2010

Labrador goaltender Kyla Penney gets ready to pounce on a loose puck as teammates Charlene Duffett and Shannon Kalanko keep Western's Kristen Cooze and Franchesca Gibbons at bay during female hockey action at the 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter G

Published on March 26, 2010

Central region basketball coaches Ed Traverse (left) and Brian Kennedy get their Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games kits from volunteers Betty Boone and Gloria White (right) during Games turnaround day Wednesday in Grand Falls-Windsor. - Photo by K

Published on March 26, 2010

Mount Pearl/South hockey player Carlee Jesso lugs her sticks, equipment and suitcase as she enters the girls' athletes village at Exploits Valley School in Grand Falls-Windsor, turnaround day at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games. - Photo by Ke

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Central's Blanchard and Avalon's Cody MacTavish hook up in boys' wrestling action at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Grand Falls-Windsor on Thursday. Thursday marked the first full day of action in the second half of the Games. - Photo by

Published on March 26, 2010

Members of the Labrador wrestling team at the Provincial Winter Games include (front row, left to right): Stephen Penashue, J.B. Andrew, Rodney Osmond and Matthew Nuna; back row (left to right): coach Brian Tucker, Alex Penashue, Clinton Rich, Nicholas

Published on March 26, 2010

Samantha Morey (centre) and Victoria Roberts of Central take on Mount Pearl/South, whose team includes Kiley Hynes (left) in girls' badminton action at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games Thursday in Grand Falls-Windsor. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/T

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2010 NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR WINTER GAMES

Many a sports purists views mixed martial arts with skepticism. Where, they ask, is the athletic merit in watching two men pounding each other into submission inside a caged ring?

But the reality is MMA sells, and its appeal has created more than just legion of Brock Lesnar and George St. Pierre fans.

Grand Falls-Windsor -

Many a sports purists views mixed martial arts with skepticism. Where, they ask, is the athletic merit in watching two men pounding each other into submission inside a caged ring?

But the reality is MMA sells, and its appeal has created more than just legion of Brock Lesnar and George St. Pierre fans.

"In a roundabout way, MMA has actually heightened (interest in) wrestling," says Gyles Gillis.

Gillis is coach of the Labrador wrestling team - whose members all hail from Sheshatshiu, outside Happy Valley-Goose Bay - at this week's Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Grand Falls-Windsor.

"Most people in MMA, the champions even, all have wrestling background or do wrestling as part of their training," said Gillis.

When the Labrador wrestlers hit the mat to train with Gillis and assistant Kyle Parsons, it was evident the boys haven't missed many Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views.

"They had some of the moves already," explained Gillis, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police member and wrestler for more than 20 years.

"In MMA, when someone goes for the legs, the first thing a guy will do to defend himself is sprawl. A lot of them have that instinct naturally."

But with the good, also came the bad.

"We saw a lot of choke holds and things we had to correct and teach them that it's a totally different sport," said Gillis

Parsons and Gillis' program only started in September, but they already have two dozen participants who have grasped the fundamentals - balance, positioning and the basic moves - and they're all "gifted throwers."

To help give them a better understanding of some of the finer points, Gillis stuck to what the boys knew - hockey.

"For example, when we circle on the mat, I relate that to lateral movement in hockey. If you're going towards a guy, you're going to move laterally left or right to try to get around."

Instruction isn't always easy. English is often the third language in Sheshatshiu. French comes second,while Innu-aimun is the most commonly spoken.

Helping with any needed translation is former nationally ranked wrestler Raymond Pashtasi.

"He brings a lot to it and inspires the kids as well," says Gillis, who notes that the history of wrestling among Canada's aboriginal cultures is quite rich.

"It's been passed down through my family," says 17-year-old Rodney Osmond. "My father, Clarence, and my uncles Fred and Simon were wrestlers.

"We've been growing up around wrestling."

The wrestlers are not without their developmental shortcomings.

"Where they need to improve is in developing a game plan, like any sport. You have to know your competitors, know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and that comes with experience," said Gillis.

The only competitors they've come up against are each other, making the Games their first real tournament.

"It's a big one," says Gillis. "It's going to be great for them, a real eye-opener and if we could record this and compare it to next time, you'll see a huge improvement."

Wrestler Matthew Nuna, 17, has a bolder prediction.

"Some of (the Labradorian's opponents) are very experienced. They've been doing this for years now, where this is our first tournament. Imagine us in a couple of years," he said, "We're going to be going to nationals or something."

The six-member team won its dual meet against Mount Pearl/South Wednesday morning. And while half the matches were won by default - the MP/S team only fielded three wrestlers to Labrador's six - there was no quit in the wrestlers who lost outright.

"He was ripped," Nunasaid of his first opponent, Sean Power, who bested him by a single point. "I thought he was going to throw me around, but he didn't.

"They look tough but they're not so tough when you grab them."

What else should be noted is that the six Labrador boys will often compete in weight classes one or two higher than those in which they would normally be slotted.

"To fill the classes, we have guys who are 44 kilos wrestling 48, guys at 50 kilos wrestling 56,' Gillis explains.

"That's a big weight difference and every kilo counts."

But not as much as desire.

"When I get on the mat, I never want to get off. I'm going to stay at this until I'm 60, 70, until I'm too old," says Nuna.

koliver@thetelegram.co

Organizations: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, MMA, Sheshatshiu Grand Falls Happy Valley Goose Bay Grand Falls-Windsor Canada Mount Pearl

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