Olivia Rhodes, left, smiled with a gold medal around her neck next to USS teammate Caitlyn Midlane who proudly wore her silver at the Western Canada Age Class. (Mike Rhodes photo)

USS Wrestling team takes unique detour around Tofino-Ucluelet highway closure to rock Abbotsford tournament

“It was a pretty fun weekend actually. We had a good time. It was a bit of an adventure.”

The Ucluelet Secondary School Warriors didn’t let a rockslide get in their way of reaching the mainland and rocking the Western Canada Age Class wrestling tournament over the weekend as the team took an ocean detour around the highway closure.

“It was a pretty fun weekend actually. We had a good time. It was a bit of an adventure,” the team’s coach Mike Rhodes told the Westerly News. “The kids were awesome. They just rolled with it. They had their floater suits on in the boat and it was part of the adventure. They had a great time.”

READ MORE: Tofino-Ucluelet highway reopens after bridge installed earlier than expected

The team had expected to travel on Thursday, but awoke to the news that the highway was closed and they would not be able to leave town.

“I was talking to the parents on the team updating them and it turns out we did actually have a parent who had access to a boat so we thought we could do it,” he said.

He then reached out to Alberni District Secondary to see if ADSS had room on their team bus to travel to the mainland.

“It turned out they had just enough room to fit all of us that were going. So, we made the decision to jump in the boat and we took the boat from Ucluelet harbour all the way down to the [Alberni] Harbour Quay and the ADSS team bus met us down at Harbour Quay and we jumped on with them,” he said. “They didn’t even hesitate…I would say that all of the wrestling teams on Vancouver Island, we’re like a community really. We support each other as much as we compete against each other. So, when there’s a team in need other teams will step up and take kids and help out any way they can and this was just another example of that.”

READ MORE: Ucluelet wrestler ready to defend national crown

Unphased by their unique commute, the USS team produced solid results with Olivia Rhodes earning gold, Owen Rhodes and Caitlyn Midlane earning silver and Evan Johansen earning a fourth place finish at the Western Canada Age Class tournament in Abbotsford, which featured wrestlers from across B.C. and Alberta.

“It’s one of our bigger tournaments of the year, which is kind of why we worked so hard to get out there…It was a good, tough, challenging tournament for the kids,” Rhodes said. “There were some really tough matches. Owen had some really close matches and had to fight from behind in many cases but he dug deep, didn’t quit and found a way to come out on top. The girls are developing their skills and gaining experience while continuing the west coast tradition of strong female wrestling at USS. Evan is getting stronger each tournament and he’s starting to build his technique to match his power. Overall it was a great effort from everybody.”

READ MORE: Wrestling season underway in Ucluelet and Tofino

Next up for the team is a tournament in Port Alberni this weekend followed by the Island Championships and then the Provincials. Rhodes said he’s confident they will return from the Islands with medals in hand.

“We’ll definitely get some medals. We’re doing very well,” he said. “It’s not a huge team, but the kids that are coming out and training are doing very, very well. They’re really enjoying it.”

He added that the team weren’t quite sure how they’d be returning home, but found a win-win situation when Rhodes connected with a Ucluelet teacher who needed a ride to Port Alberni to pick up her vehicle that had been there for repairs.

Rhodes suggested the teacher take the team van during Friday’s temporary opening, leave it in Port Alberni and drive her car back.

“When we came back on Saturday night expecting to stay the night in Port Alberni for the night, we found out that the road was open and the van was sitting there waiting for us, so we jumped in the van and actually got home earlier than we had anticipated. So, it was actually quite nice,” he said.

READ MORE: Ucluelet and Tofino mayors call for “calmness” and “empathy” as highway closure cuts communities off from supplies



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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