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Ucluelet Secondary wrestlers dominate Islands, prep for provincial tourney

Tofino - Ucluelet student athletes continue solid season
Five USS wrestlers made it to the finals in their respective divisions at the Island Championships in Victoria on Feb. 10. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Rhodes )

Ucluelet Secondary School’s wrestlers were in the zone as they shone on the mats at the Island Championships.

The USS Warriors took third place overall out of 33 schools and the girls took second place overall at the Feb. 10 competition inside Victoria’s Spectrum Community School.

“All of the Warriors had strong showings. Everyone put their full effort into each match and contributed to the success of the team,” coach Mike Rhodes told the Westerly News via email. “It was a great day, lots of energy and excitement with each one of our wrestlers giving everything they had in each match. We have been training and working hard all year and it’s paying off towards the end of the season. We now have two more weeks to try and build off this momentum as we prepare for the provincial championships coming up in Vancouver.”

The team sent eight wrestlers to the event, four girls and four boys, and all four girls wrestled their way to their division’s finals.

Caitlyn Midlane, Kennedy Bruno and Estrella Mclellan each earned silver medals and, in what became an annual tradition during her high school wrestling career, Olivia Rhodes earned her fourth consecutive Islands gold medal, taking just about 30 seconds to pin her opponent in the finals.

“I was just looking out at the crowd and all the people who were proud of me because it’s my last year and the emotions were all high,” Olivia told the Westerly.

The local wrestling phenom first won gold at the Islands in her Grade 8 season.

“It’s quite an accomplishment as an athlete to finish a run like this,” coach Mike said. “We missed out on a year because of COVID-19, so she didn’t have the chance to go five for five, but going undefeated throughout her high school career is a pretty rare feat.”

Olivia is graduating this year and is focused on making her final USS season a success.

“It was definitely nerve wracking going into the last one just because the emotions are high, but I was pretty confident in my ability to win and I was excited,” she said. “My focus was that this is my last one and I wanted to make it a good one. I’m really focusing on winning and having a good last year.”

She added she was familiar with all her opponents at the Islands and said the event was an opportunity to leave everything she’s been working on on the mat.

“When I’m wrestling in other tournaments, I’m practicing my skills and learning how to be able to do them on harder people. So, when I’m at Islands or Provincials, I’m allowed to just go out there and win however I want,” she said. “I want to practice and get better and then in the tournaments that count, I want to go out there and use those skills that I practiced and win as fast as I can…I’m there to win, not to practice.”

Along with her gold medal, Olivia also earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Female Wrestler award, which she received for the first time.

“I’ve never won that, so it felt pretty good to get it in my last year,” she said. “I was pretty excited.”

She added she was proud to see all four girls on the USS team make it to their divisions’ finals and said the close-knit team benefits from having awesome girls to train with and cheer on.

“It’s definitely helpful because we are all really strong athletes, so practicing with each other is definitely making us better,” she said. “We’re a team and not just individuals. If I didn’t have people cheering me on by my side, I wouldn’t be as good as I am right now and if I wasn’t training with these people and having them there, I would not be as good. I need them. I need them on the sidelines or I would not be as good as I am.”

She added the team always has a blast building comradery and friendships during out-of-town events and that she and her teammates are stoked to represent USS and the West Coast.

“We always wear our school gear with pride, definitely,” she said. “We take value in creating a small, strong school and we go out there and kick butt.”

She was delighted to see her girls team wrestle their way to a second place overall finish, noting it’s an impressive feat for a small school like USS.

Wyatt Rhodes delivered the boys team’s best performance, earning a gold medal to match his sister’s. Rhys Cannon and Jett Bertin each earned bronze and Levi Duncan fought his way to a fourth place finish in his first Island Championships.

Olivia took on more of a coaching role with the team this year and was proud to watch how well the team’s wrestling skills have evolved.

“It’s amazing. It’s pretty crazy. You’re so proud even though you didn’t do it, they did it, but they did it because you taught them how to do it,” she said.

Olivia is now eyeing the provincials, where she and brother Wyatt earned matching silver medals last year.

“I’m a little bit stressed, but I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of how I do it,” she said.

She added there is little downtime to relax between now and the provincial tournament taking place Feb. 22-24

“It’s go, go, go. We’re doing hard training over the next two weeks,” she said.

She hopes to see wrestling grow in popularity, particularly among girls.

“It’s a crazy sport. It’s so fun and it builds so much strength,” she said. “I definitely would like to see more girls participate because it’s such a good sport for anyone in highschool…It makes no sense to me because I’ve always wanted to do it. I don’t know what it feels like not to want to do it.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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