Moose Jaw is quickly becoming a hot bed for wrestling talent and that was on full display on Thursday at Peacock Collegiate.
The wrestling mat was kept busy throughout the day as the local high school wrestling team showcased the growth that the sport has been seeing here in the Friendly City, while hoping to see that continue.
To help foster that growth and show what the next level of wrestling looks like, the University of Regina men's wrestling team hosted an exhibition dual meet with Minot State University on Thursday night to wrap up the event.
“Wrestling is just booming here in Moose Jaw,” said Leo McGee, the long-time U of R head coach. “I would say the fastest growing club in the whole nation is right here in Moose Jaw.”
When the high school wrestling program was brought back to Moose Jaw four years ago, there were just under ten athletes taking part. Since then, the team has grown to close to 50 wrestlers.
“We've put a lot of work into it, people like Ward Strueby here at Peacock have been helping us promote wrestling and he's done a very good job,” said Kelly Busch, one of the Moose Jaw team coaches. “The program has more than doubled, in fact it's almost tripled, compared to what we had last year and we expect it to grow again next year.”
McGee points to the work done by the Buschs, Kelly and Tom, as well as Rob Villeneuve and Strueby for growing the sport in the city.
“Very passionate people in leadership roles, people that full understand that the real value is having kids involved in this and success sometimes is knowing where the kids are, knowing what they're doing and they're coming home tired,” said McGee.
The day started with a wrestling clinic for grade nine students before the high school team hit the mat for an intra-squad dual meet. That was followed up by the next generation, the Moose Jaw Wrestling Club's K to grade eight wrestlers having their own matches. The night ended with the university dual meet.
The benefit for McGee and the U of R program in coming to Moose Jaw for this event are that the stronger wrestling becomes in the province, the stronger their team becomes with a better crop of recruits to pick from.
“The largest part of it is the fact that we're trying to grow the sport in the province of Saskatchewan,” said McGee. “When the University of Regina men's wrestling team was at it's best, we drew from all around the province and in fact, our first national championship, we only had two kids from Regina on the team, all others were from rural Saskatchewan.”
Under McGee's command, the U of R wrestling team has won two national championships (1997 and 1998), as well as ten Canada West titles. He says getting out into the province is something they want to do to help promote the sport.
“We've done this before, we've done it in Weyburn twice, and this is the hot bed right now,” said McGee. “We want to start taking our product to the province.”
The Cougars ended up coming up short against the Beavers, falling 22-16 in the dual meet. Minot State is made up of wrestlers from Russia, Lativa and across the United States. They compete at the NCAA Division II level.