Eckville’s Crank Wrestling Club will be sending four young wrestlers to their biggest competition yet, the Alberta Winter Games.
Competitors from Eckville and Condor will be heading to Wood Buffalo to represent the Zone Four Parkland Team, Feb. 16-19.
Sophia McAlpine, Savannah McAlpine, Kyan Martin and Aiden Mann will represent Crank in a competition that will have all eyes on them.
For Mann and Martin it’s the size of the games that has them nervous, not the actual competition.
“There are going to be so many people there, watching us,” said Martin, adding the opening ceremony also gives him nerves as it is televised.
“I’m not so much nervous about the actual games, more the amount of people going to be there,” explained Mann. “I don’t really get nervous when I wrestle.”
Both young wrestlers are in junior high and have been wrestling for the past six or seven years.
They are both looking at the Alberta Winter Games as the first step to becoming an Olympic athlete, with Martin hoping to making Team Canada in time for the 2024 games.
Each set of games, from the Alberta Games to the Canada Games and beyond are steps to the ultimate goal for the two young athletes.
“It’s a starting point which will lead us to Worlds and eventually the Olympic Games,” said Martin.
Though they both came to the sport for different reasons, friends and wanting to give something new a try, both Mann and Martin have stuck with it for the same reason.
Mann and Martin both say they love the sport as it is fun, and is very competitive.
“Its one of those sports where you have to rely on yourself to get you out of a situation, and your coach to train you how,” explained Mann. “Its easier to rely on people.”
“The only person you have to rely on is your coach to help you with your positions,” added Martin.
The two compete in about five tournaments each season, and Coach Adam Laporte says he and his assistant coach, Drew Persson, have been working with the wrestlers for the last year to get them ready for the Alberta Winter Games.
“They have put it a lot of work, and have worked hard,” said Laporte.
When asked if they have a wrestler they look up to on their personal journeys to the Olympic stage, both said they look up to Persson, who has been wrestling for a relatively short time.
Mann and Martin accredited her drive and determination in the sport for why they both look up to her.
“What she has accomplished in such a short time is great,” said Martin.
Laporte describe the four athletes, along with their teammates in Zone Four, as strong and determined.
“I’m really excited [about the Games],” said Martin.
Thanks to the team’s sponsors, Denali Oilfield Services and Drillers Directional, the athletes will be travelling to Wood Buffalo without expenses incurred.
“[Denali Oilfield Services and Drillers Directional] donated enough money so that the young athletes could focus on the wrestling and not worry about if they could afford to participate,” said Laporte.
Both Sophia and Savannah McAlpine from Eckville were unavailable for comment at the time of the interview.
Accompanying the four local athletes on the Zone Four team are: Olivia Miller, Edson; Bronwyn Dormaar, Wetaskiwin; Amanda Grant, Penhold; Felicia Davies, Edmonton; Megan Nganjue, Calgary; Desma Manns, Wetaskiwin; William Dormaar, Wetaskiwin; Darius Shuffler, Wetaskiwin; Logan Kennedy, Edmonton; Weston Pitcher, Wetaskiwin; Sean Botelho, Edmonton; Brandt Proctor, Calgary; Ethan Cullen, Wetaskiwin; Noah Swanson, Drayton Valley; and Callum McDowell, St. Albert.
This is the first time the majority of Zone Four’s team will be made up of primarily rural athletes.