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Ucluelet Secondary wrestlers tackle emotions on path to nationals

Tofino - Ucluelet athletes ready to wrap up strong season
West Coast wrestlers Caitlyn Midlane, left, and Olivia Rhodes, right, celebrate their medals with coach Mike Rhodes at the provincial championships. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Rhodes)

A pair of West Coast wrestlers have each added to their already crowded list of accolades as Olivia Rhodes and Caitlyn Midlane earned provincial medals.

Midlane was ecstatic to earn her first-ever spot on the provincial tournament’s podium as the Grade 11 multi-sport athlete wrestled her way to the finals and took home a silver medal.

“I was feeling confident and nervous at the same time. That’s just how I feel every single time, no matter how big or important the tournament is,” Midlane told the Westerly News.

She said she cruised through her first match and outmatched a tougher opponent in her second to reach the semi-finals where she overcame a rough start to grab the victory.

“She was beating me by a lot. Once you get 10 points ahead of your opponent you automatically win. She was nine points ahead of me so she only needed one more point and then she took me down,” Midlane said. “You can re-roll somebody. If someone is 10 points ahead of you and just got their points and then you re-roll them and pin them in the same motion, then you win. So, that’s what I did.”

She recalled the moment of escaping defeat with the pin as “emotional, scary and exciting all at the same time.”

“I flipped her over onto her back and we sat there for a good, solid 15-20 seconds before I pinned her. In that moment I was freaking out because I thought she was going to roll over onto her stomach, which would have made her still win the match and then I wouldn’t have gone to the finals, but she rolled right onto her back and they called the pin,” she said.

The win earned her a spot in the following day’s final match against an undefeated opponent.

“I was really hoping that I was going to get into the finals and I made it there. By making it there I’d already met my goal…I did get pinned, but I got up and I walked off the mat with my head held high still because getting to the finals is a pretty big deal even if you don’t win,” she said, adding she had faced her opponent in the finals before and never beaten her.

“I was just really excited about the fact that I made it into the finals…Everyone gets walked out onto the mats and it’s a pretty big deal. There’s so many people there, all of the other wrestlers are watching. It’s pretty frightening, but once I actually got onto the mat, I wasn’t as scared because I was just in my zone so I wasn’t worried about anything else.”

While the silver was Midlane’s first provincial medal, she has never lost a match at the national tournament, which she’s competed in twice and earned four gold medals over the past two years in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

“I’m really, really nervous because everyone’s saying I’ve got to win again for the third time in a row, which puts a lot of weight on your shoulders,” she said. “I am confident going there because I know I’m a pretty good wrestler, but it’s also just really nerve- wracking.”

She said she hopes to continue her gold medal dominance at the nationals, especially in Greco-Roman which is the wrestling style she prefers.

She added she enjoys travelling with her USS team and was proud of how well the crew represented themselves and their school at the provincials.

“It’s always good with our team. Everyone’s friends with everyone. We all get along great and it’s just always an awesome trip with them,” she said. “I want my team to know that I’m really proud of them and how well they did…I was really happy to see them keep going and not give up and I was just really excited to see everybody do so well.”

Ucluelet Secondary School sent nine athletes to the PNE Forum in Vancouver where over 500 wrestlers competed in the provincial championships from Feb 23-24.

“We were all feeling pretty anxious, but also excited because it was our last school tournament together so we wanted to make the most of it and we were all ready to see our brackets to see who we were wrestling,” Grade 12 wrestler Olivia Rhodes told the Westerly News.

Rhodes and Midlane both took on more of a coaching role on the team this year as the veteran athletes helped foster and grow a strong wrestling community at the school.

“I enjoyed coaching and I enjoyed helping other kids succeed in their love for wrestling and seeing them grow…Bringing in new wrestlers and teaching them what I love to do I thought was really awesome,” Midlane said.

The provincial tournament was Rhodes’ final time representing USS on the mat as the national tournament is not a school event and Rhodes will be representing her club team, Ukee Storm.

She said emotions are running high as she completes each tournament for the last time on her way to capping off a very successful high school wrestling career.

“Every car ride home is way more emotional now,” she said. “That was our last school tournament, so it was the last time I’ll be riding the school bus with my school team and then nationals will be my last one with my club team. It’s stressful, but it’s also happy tears because it’s been a long journey and I’m ready for it to end, but it’s going to be emotional.”

While this was the first time Rhodes did not make it to the provincial tournament’s finals, she shook off a loss in the semi-finals to wrestle her way to a bronze medal.

“I knew going into the tournament that it was going to be really hard. I was ready. I was ready for challenging matches. Going into my first two matches, I knew who they were, I’d wrestled them before. I was completely confident that I could win, I just had to stay focused,” she said.

In her semi-final match, Rhodes found herself facing an opponent she’d lost to twice this season.

“I knew it was going to be a hard match and it was. We were tied for a while and then I got stuck on the bottom and didn’t win. I knew going into it I could lose, but I also could win. You never know, right?,” she said.

That loss knocked her out of contention for a gold or silver and meant she’d have to win her next two matches to secure a bronze medal.

“I really wanted to finish with a medal, which I did. So, I was pretty happy about that,” she said. “After losing my semi-final, I realized that no matter how well you do in the beginning, you’ve always got to be proud of your outcome. Even though I wanted to get second, I still got third and I still have to be proud of what I did there and not dwell on the past. I was really upset, but then I had to realize that I still had to win, I still had a chance, so I have to be proud of that accomplishment.”

She added her team’s support and comradery helped motivate her on the mat.

“Me and Caitlyn couldn’t have won if they weren’t there cheering, so they’re a big part of our success,” she said. “The team is just a bunch of West Coast kids that come together and help each other through a tough competition. We went out there to represent USS.”

Rhodes is now heading into her last wrestling tournament at the national competition in Ontario, kicking off on April 2, where she will compete in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.

“I’m going to have a lot of fun, but I am also expecting myself to do well because it is my last time,” she said. “It is pretty stressful, but I’m also going to have the best time…I block out all the emotion during the day and just focus on having fun with my friends for the last time. It’s not like I’m never going to see them again, but I’m never going to compete with them again. So, I focus on competing when I’m competing and then after the tournament is when we focus on having friend time.”

Rhodes is not planning to wrestle next year as she’s planning to stay on Vancouver Island, where wrestling programs are rare amongst post-secondary schools, but she said she plans to keep going to tournaments to cheer USS on when she can.

Midlane said Rhodes will be missed next season.

“Me and Olivia have been a pair while we’ve wrestled our entire lives together and I’m for sure going to miss her next year. It’s going to be hard not having her with me and beside me at all of our tournaments, but I know she’ll always try to be there,” she said.

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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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