As with all schools, our Loyalists sports teams have more success in some sports than we do in others. One of the teams that has enjoyed consistent success over the years is RLA’s Wrestling team.
The team is coached by two staff members who have a great deal of wrestling and coaching experience.
Dr. Brown, one of our talented and dedicated teachers, wrestled through school, including while at university, and coached a Georgetown, ON high school team for three years before joining RLA. In Georgetown Dr. Brown saw one wrestler win at OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations), one win at Junior Nationals and the team win the Regional championships. He joined RLA 15 years ago and has been coaching our wrestlers ever since.
Capt. Dyson also wrestled through school and in university and he wrestled while he served in the Canadian military. He joined RLA six years ago, recently being promoted to Company Commander in B COY, and has been coaching wrestling at RLA ever since. Dyson has a gold medal from the British Columbia Winter Games, despite being the underdog in that tournament.
So not only do both of our wrestling coaches have a great deal of experience, they have personal success in the sport and a passion for wrestling as well.
I asked them what it is they like about the game and they both offered the same answer – it’s an individual sport and wrestlers have nothing but themselves to rely on.
“You make it or break it on your own,” Capt. Dyson told me.
“There’s no equipment, no aids. It’s just you and you alone,” explained Dr. Brown.
For a wrestler on a mat facing a single opponent this is very true – no bat or ball; no teammate; not even protective equipment. Wrestlers have to depend on their training, their strength – both mental and physical, and their perseverance.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how proud I am of our students, specifically the wrestling team for their conduct at a recent tournament and how other parents and coaches commented on our team’s conduct.
Dr. Brown explained to me that the way all wrestlers conduct themselves is one of the things he loves about the sport. There is a lot of class in the sport and wrestlers maintain their composure. There is no showing off or taunting, no cheering or jeering.
“Everyone knows they can be beat,” explains Dr. Brown so wrestlers don’t chirp at each other knowing they could be on the mat next.
Everything you’ve done, all your training, all your knowledge, is all on the mat, says Capt. Dyson, and wrestlers tend to “leave it all on the mat.”
Over the years Robert Land Academy’s wrestlers have taken their training and knowledge to the mat and come up with successful bouts and tournaments. Have we dominated the sport? No. Have we taken every title and trophy there is to win in our area of competition? No. But, for a small school with a small wrestling team, our wrestlers have enjoyed a great deal of success on the mat. Last year one of our wrestlers went to Nationals and earned a third place medal; we have one OFFSA champion; and 9 SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary School Association) champs who have a combined total of 13 gold medals.
This year RLA’s wrestling team consists entirely of rookie wrestlers, competing in their first year in the sport. Despite this, we have brought home some medals and seen our wrestlers win matches against older, more experienced competitors.
Both coaches chalk RLA’s success up to our boys being more physically fit than their opponents and being able to listen to the coaches when they’re training and competing.
Both coaches agree that RLA’s unique program that includes regular physical fitness as a compulsory part of education as well as the structure and expectations that teaches the boys to listen and respond to teaching, coaching and counsel from staff, is why RLA students find success in the sport.
“The boys are fit and work hard,” says Dr. Brown of our small team, with Capt. Dyson telling me the boys “buy in” to the coaches and listen to what they are being taught.
As a small team with all rookie wrestlers, RLA’s wrestling program focuses a great deal on the basics rather than fancy moves that might earn you a point or two.
The initial takedown in wrestling is one of the most important moves in a match, and our boys have been learning the double-leg takedown, a basic technique that can win a match.
“It’s a pleasure watching them work that technique,” Capt. Dyson tells me.
Dr. Brown says the team works on arm bars, for example, a basic technique not many other clubs spend a great deal of time on. What that means is that when one of our wrestlers uses an arm bar their opponent doesn’t know how to counteract the move, find it very painful and end up on the mat within a short period of time.
Focusing on those basics, after watching what RLA’s competitors are doing on the mat and finding their weaknesses, is one of RLA’s strategies for success, says Dr. Brown. The other is our physical fitness – which allows RLA wrestlers to maintain stamina and strength through the second round of matches when everyone else is getting tired.
While RLA wrestlers win matches and have won medals at tournaments this year, there is no guarantee for success in the regional and provincial tournaments coming up, although RLA has been wrestling well, has been training hard, and our boys have persevered through those first weeks and months of training when you get beat up pretty good at practice and in matches. We have a shot, the coaches tell me, but were careful to keep from getting my hopes up too high.
RLA hosts our Zone championship tournament on Feb. 13 and we are looking forward to wrestling our local competitors on home turf. After that, SOSSA will be Feb. 20th. Wrestlers who place in the top two at SOSSA will head to OFSAA in March.
Like the rest of the staff, I’m looking forward to watching our rookie team – who all work well together – take it to the mat in February.