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Back south the wrestlers go

Never let it be said that the wrestlers won't be in good shape when it comes to future events.

So long as they keep getting the competition, of course.

Nunavut Wrestling's latest venture south of 60 happened in Winnipeg earlier this month as a group of 11 from Cambridge Bay, Iglulik and Rankin Inlet hit the Manitoba capital for the Crusader Wrestling Tournament on Feb. 8. The Cambridge Bay contingent all came home with medals and you'll be surprised to hear Eekeeluak Avalak won gold.

Eekeeluak Avalak of Cambridge Bay, centre, stands highest after he won gold in the U19 boys 55-kg weight class at the Crusader Wrestling Tournament in Winnipeg on Feb. 8. Standing alongside him are-silver medalist Ivan Rakowski, left, and bronze medalist Michael Macchi.
photo courtesy of Paula Cziranka

Maybe not but he did as he topped the U19 boys 55-kg weight class. He defeated Ivan Rakowski of Winnipeg by technical superiority (mercy rule) as he managed to create a 10-point gap, which forces the referee to call a halt to proceedings. The win in the gold medal match topped off a perfect run for Avalak as he won all of his bouts.

"It was a bit easier than expected, to be honest," said coach Chris Crooks, who accompanied the team to Winnipeg. "We've been trying to find him good competition so we moved him to the U19 division."

Even then, Crooks said he had no worries about how Avalak would handle

"Manitoba's not the strongest province in wrestling and there were some teams from northern Ontario," he said. "He definitely benefited from our trip to Ontario last month and you could see that in his matches."

Cody Qamukaq of Iglulik also hit the podium as he snagged silver in the U19 boys 70-kg weight class. He lost his gold medal match to Justin Woodard of Ontario by technical superiority.

"The guy who beat Cody is one of the better wrestlers in Thunder Bay but Cody did quite well," said Crooks. "He got four matches and all of them were good."

The other medallist was Kiana Ekpakohak of Cambridge Bay as she won herself a bronze medal in a combined division in the U16 age category. She was the only one entered in the girls 46-kg weight class and that meant she had to take on wrestlers from weight classes close to hers.

photo courtesy of Paula Cziranka
Kiana Ekpakohak of Cambridge Bay, right, won bronze in a U16 combined weight class at the Crusader Wrestling Tournament in Winnipeg on Feb. 8. Standing alongside her are silver medalist Kiki Moore, left, and gold medalist Yasmeen Ibrahim.

Crooks said Ekpakohak won just one match on points but she accorded herself just nicely.
"She fought in a round-robin and that was good experience for her," he said.
Of the eight who made the trip from Rankin Inlet, Crooks said it was a mixed bag of results.

"They won some and ended up fighting each other on some occasions," he said. "Joel Netser and Cody ended up against each other and Cole Kaludjak was in that same division."

Morgan Kakutinniq and Nolan Tattuinee also ended up against one another in the U19 boys 125-kg weight class, the heaviest one of the meet.

Some of the wrestlers who made the trip will be in Whitehorse for the Arctic Winter Games next month, such as Avalak, Qamukaq and Ekpakohak, but Crooks said he's looking ahead to later this year.

"We're focusing on training for (the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax)," he said. "There's 13 different weight classes there and we have a chance to send a bigger team than we will to Whitehorse. I'm hoping to take a team of 15 but it all depends on the funding."

Next up in the short-term for the wrestlers is a pre-AWG training camp in Cambridge Bay in a couple of weeks, followed by heading to Yellowknife to catch up with the NWT charter to go to Whitehorse for the start of the AWG on March 15.

About the Author: James McCarthy

I'm the managing editor with NNSL Media and have been so since 2022.
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