There’s nothing like home mat advantage, if you will, when it comes to wrestling and Pangnirtung’s finest showed that late last month.
The Nunavut Wrestling Championships were held in the community on Jan. 27 and it was Pangnirtung that ended up winning the overall title. Cambridge Bay came in second while Iglulik was third. Points were given for each result obtained by a wrestler, which were then tabulated for a team’s total.
Chris Crooks, Nunavut Wrestling’s president and head coach, said having the event in Pangnirtung was a good way to help continue the growth of the sport in the territory.
“Wrestling is growing and it was great to be able to give their wrestlers a showcase,” he said. “It’s also good to have it there because a lot of territorial events are hosted in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet and places like Pangnirtung don’t get a lot of chances to host a territorial.”
He also said turnout for the event was so good, extra space had to be made.
“We had between 60 to 70 people come out to watch, I would say,” he said. “We put out what we thought was enough chairs but we had to get more because more people kept coming in. The community was a great host.”
As for the individual results, Crooks said there were no real surprises with those who were expected to do well coming through.
“Eekee (Eekeeluak) Avalak and Kristen McCallum (both of Cambridge Bay) did very well,” he said. “Roy (Goose) had a really good final in his weight class and ended up with silver but that final match could have gone either way.”
The territorial championship was just one part of the week that was in Pangnirtung. There were several practice and workout sessions for the wrestlers, something Crooks said was done because of cost concerns.
“Some of the wrestlers started the Thursday before territorials and we continued that on Friday,” he said. “Two practices on the Saturday, then the tournament on the Sunday and more practices on Monday and Tuesday. We got a full week worth of work and it was great.”
The tournament was not only to determine the territorial champions but to also pick the team that will travel to the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., this coming August. For the first time in recent memory, the girls will outnumber the boys as seven girls and five boys made the cut.
“The girls program is really starting to come around,” said Crooks. “They lose that intimidation factor once they start doing it because there’s no preconceived notion among them. They just enjoy it.”
With the team picked, Crooks’ plan is to have another camp in either May or June, all dependent on funds.
“I’m looking at the big camp in Jasper (Alta.) in July and possibly a pre-meet camp in the territory just before the Games so we can go down as a team,” he said.
Western Canada Summer Games wrestling team
40-kg Kiana Ekpakohak, Cambridge Bay
47-kg Maggie Ejetsiak, Pangnirtung
53-kg Darlene Amarualik, Iglulik
57-kg Kristen McCallum, Cambridge Bay
61-kg Kylie Kunuk, Iglulik
65-kg Aislyn Omilgoetok, Cambridge Bay
74-kg Chassity St John, Arviat
46-kg Ezekiel Kilabuk, Pangnirtung
50-kg Alan Alivaktuk, Pangnirtung
54-kg Eekee Avalak, Cambridge Bay
63-kg Neil Tulugajuk, Iglulik
69-kg Cody Qamukaq, Iglulik
source: Nunavut Wrestling