Cold gym. Hard mats. Humidity inside the windows. Sweaty kids squirm around.
Taped fingers. Bloody noses. The legacy of the Campbell River Wrestling Camp continues.
Southgate – Home of the Gators – hosted the 15th annual camp Dec. 22-23, drawing gutty kids from Nanaimo, Uclulet and Courtney. High schoolers hone technique for the provincials in February. Elementary school kids throw head locks, half nelsons and holiday squeals.
University students like Brett Nelson make their annual pilgrimage to the mat.
“My first camp was here. I was the only 6th grade kid. I had my own knee pads,” he says. “Eighth grade I went to a camp at Simon Fraser University and knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Six years later he studies Communications at SFU, wrestling on scholarship in the NCAA. Two other SFU students accompany Nelson at the camp: Ashley Osachuk and Dawson McKay.
Before the lunch break the kids gather around to hear their ‘Secrets to Success’.
“Practice is hard. Competition is hard. School is hard. But I’ve never met such great people as wrestlers. Everywhere I go and wrestle I focus on having fun,” Osachuk says.
She is in her third year at SFU studying Kinesiology, which makes her the veteran of the crew.
McKay is still waiting for his first semester grades to materialize. In a sombre tone he says, “Wrestling is a lot of getting beaten up. If you focus one day at a time you should survive.”
Thick neck, wide back, he competes at 197 pounds. It’s hard to imagine that he isn’t giving the beatings.
“I was lucky to have my coaches spend so much time with me and prepare me for this,” he says.
All three went to Southgate before Timberline. Today they are all on scholarship at Simon Fraser University.
Alongside the three varsity athletes is former high school teammate Mike Herman. Herman graduated last year and continues to contribute to wrestling in our community by coaching and re-establishing the Southgate middle school team.
The heart of the River’s wrestling legacy is Jason Kerluck.
“The early Christmas camps I hosted at Phoenix while I was living in Victoria going to school to become a teacher.”
Kerluck teaches Forestry and Math at Carihi while coordinating all the coaches and events for the Campbell River schools and their club team.
His boys of six and nine years old tussle in a steely group of friends. They don’t know it but they are on an old path, interrupted by huge challenges emotional and physical. A path worn by many from the River.
A decade from now they’ll return to coach and share their secrets to success, just as it is today and was a decade before. They’ll become teachers in the school district, work in the city, have kids, put them on the mat and continue the legacy.
Special to the Mirror