By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on Feb. 24, 2017
(LASALLE, ON) – After a display of dominance at the regional high school championships, 13 members of Sandwich Secondary School’s wrestling team are headed to the 2017 OFSAA provincial championships in March.
The Sabres brought home 10 gold medals, three silvers, and a bronze at the SWOSSAA meet at Tecumseh Vista Academy last week.
Sandwich took top honours as a combined group, winning the team award in boys’ wrestling and silver in girls’.
This was a repeat performance of their finish at the WECSSAA championships a little more than a week before.
“It’s the best team I’ve had since 2007,” said coach Ron Reitsma.
“We’ve got a real good kick at the cat for OFSAA.
“Last year, I had nine podium – I’m hoping for more than that this year.
“[They’re] a real strong, dedicated team.”
The 2007 team that Reitsma spoke of won the provincial crown as a combined team and in the girls’ event with seven members representing their school.
A decade on, this year’s OFSAA tournament will take place in Brampton, the site of the 2007 team’s triumph.
Coach Reitsma sees that as a good omen.
“I am hoping for at least a top-three finish in all three categories – boys, girls, and combined,” said Reitsma.
“I think we have the potential to do that if everyone wrestles to their potential.”
Reitsma is a retired automotive mechanic who left the profession for teaching in 2000.
A former high school wrestler himself, he teaches physical education and transportation technologies at Sandwich, but coaching wrestling is the best part of his job.
“The most rewarding part of my day is the coaching stuff,” stated Reitsma. “And I don’t even get paid for it.”
Getting his start as a teacher at Riverside High School, Reitsma transferred to Sandwich, not long after, and formed their wrestling team in 2004.
He is aided in his coaching efforts by Robert Power.
Earlier in the school year, his team travelled to Sarnia for a tournament prior to the WECSSAA championships.
“Those are warm-up tournaments for the big three – WECSSAA, SWOSSAA, and OFSSA,” explained Reitsma.
“Most of the kids don’t bother cutting weight for [Sarnia]; they stay up and wrestle up a weight class just to get experience. They fared fairly well.”
The Sabres participated in the WECSSAA championships, also hosted by Tecumseh Vista Academy at the beginning of this month.
With a team of 10 girls and 10 boys, they walked away with 16 podium finishes.
All of the medalists won the right to move on to the SWOSSAA championships, hosted in the same location, where 14 of them medaled again and 13 earned a berth to the OFSAA championships.
Ten members of the Sabres wrestling team won double gold at the two events: Ella Doornaert, Paloma Ducra, Jessica Hodgkin, Dayjanea Johnson, Jordan Krug, Anthony Papia, Taysia Pharr, Justin Reiss, Chris Reneaud, and Saad Tabbara.
“A few of them – Jordan Krug, Paloma [Ducre], Jess Hodgkin – they’ve only lost one match all year,” reported Reitsma.
“Krug went through WECSSAA and SWOSSAA without getting a point scored against him, as did Jess Hodgkin.”
Brett Hodgkins and Monique Theriault also earned berths to OFSAA, winning silver at both of February’s events.
Likewise did Quinn Allen who improved from bronze to silver over the two meets to earn his ticket.
Other medal recipients were Chyenne Wilson, who landed second and third place finishes at the two events, as well as Angela Varacalli and Jasmine Murray who picked up bronzes earlier in the month.
“They just gelled as a team and did what they had to do,” explained Reitsma, who feels his team has consistently put in their time and is now reaping the rewards.
“A real stand up team; not everybody wants to get beat up every day and they come to every practice. They’re doing well.”
One of the shining lights in his group is senior Jessica Hodgkin.
“She never misses practice, she’s a leader, but a quiet leader,” said her coach. “She’s not real vocal, but she gets the job done.
“She’s probably the hardest working kid we have on the team. She does well at whatever she puts her mind to.”
Jessica, her twin brother Brett, Quinn Allen, Jordan Krug and Monique Theriault will be graduating in the fall and have one more chance at glory in Brampton at the OFSAA championships.
“They’re all heading off to university and I wish them the best of luck,” said Reitsma. “Hopefully, they go to where there’s a wrestling program because they excel at it.”
“They’ve already learned that working hard, commitment, dedication, paves the road to success. As long as they keep working hard, they will keep getting success.”
The 2017 OFSAA wrestling championships will take place March 1-3 at the Powerade Centre in Brampton. For more information, please visit OFSAA.on.ca.