YSAA Wrestling is Back!

First high school wrestling event in 20 years a big success

By Morris Prokop on November 28, 2022

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The first high school wrestling event in 20 years in Whitehorse was a big success.

The “Fall Brawl” took place at CSSC Mercier school on Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m.

It was organized by the Yukon Schools Athletic Association and Grapple Yukon, a new wrestling organization.

Toosis Abel Shitze, 13, from Pelly Crossing took part in the wrestling and got taken down hard by one opponent.

“I got slammed pretty good but I still got up,” he stated.

Despite the hard fall, Shitze enjoyed the event.

“It was good.”

Kaleb Parry, 16, of F.H. Collins, was also there to wrestle.

“It was pretty interesting. Got to wrestle a few people. It was a lot of fun. I haven’t wrestled – it’s hard wrestling recently and it was nice to get out here and wrestle against a few more people.”

“I’ve done some of the elementary school tournaments back when but not recently. I just started again recently … I’m trying out for the Arctic Games team and if I make that … that’d be pretty sweet.”

Of his last match, Parry said “It was hard. It was sweaty. We were both in jeans … but it was pretty fun.”

Noah Lapierre, 13, from Mercier and Nicholas Shorty, 14, from Pelly took part in the last bout of the day.

Shorty said “I wanted to see how good everyone is and …”

“Wanted to see girls!” Shitze interjected.

“… and see girls. I just wanted to have fun, too. It was really fun,” finished Shorty.

Grapple Yukon assistant coach Dave Gillis came with four boys, including Shitze and Shorty.

“I brought four athletes from Pelly from Eliza Van Bibber School. We were supposed to have a lot more but stomach flu going around – but the guys who showed up, they’ve been coming to practice for months now.

The other boys with Gillis were Tyson Simon Joe and Keelan Sawyer.

“We started last year, so this is our first actual competition against other teams, so it was just rippin’ the Band-Aid off and maybe having them a chance to see the sport, actually compete against somebody else instead of people they train against consistently,” related Gillis.

“I’m really proud of Nic, Toosis, Keelan and Tyson. They came from Pelly, they showed up early this morning, great group of athletes.

Gillis said the afternoon went well.

“This is the first time wrestling against people who aren’t their friends, so getting over those nerves and just seeing what the sport’s all about.”

The event also included a judo demonstration.

Lia Hinchey took part in it.

“We have a very strong club,” she said. “We’re trying to get more athletes to join.”

Hinchey enjoys both wrestling and judo.

“It’s been really fun. I’ve been doing judo a lot longer. We travel a lot for judo and go to lots of tournaments and starting to do that for wrestling as well.”

Hinchey is going into the Arctic Winter Games in wrestling and the Canada Winter Games in judo.

She said she’s looking forward to the Games.

“I think it will be really fun.”

Hinchey added, “We have a really good group of kids and we need more people in wrestling and judo.”

Jason Basnett, head coach for Grapple Yukon, also said the afternoon went great.

“It went fantastic. We had to be kind of fluid in our expectations because there’s so many kids sick at all the schools right now, so we didn’t have as many show up as we thought we would. But I think it worked really well. We got a bunch of training in. People tried some new stuff. We got kids from Pelly wrestling with kids from Whitehorse, met some new friends.

“We’re looking to make Arctic Winter Games team, Indigenous Games team, as well as for other teams in the future, so getting all these kids together to meet each other, this is kind of the start of a beautiful thing, hopefully.”

“We had the judo kids come out and do some excellent demos of judo. Liam Gishler did the judo demo along with Hinchey.

“They’re both longtime judo athletes, as well as wrestling and have been training forever,” said Basnett. “They’re going to the Canada Winter Games for judo. And they’re going to go to Arctic Winter Games for wrestling. Don’t tell them because they’ll get fat heads, but they’re kind of our superstars right now … they’re pretty good.”

“I’m really pleased with how it went, really happy that the Pelly guys got down here,” he said.

“We got lots of kids out and they showed some pretty good spirit, some good wrestling.”

“Our trials are in Pelly Dec. 10. People have to register online before the trials … so we know they’re coming, and then we form the Arctic Winter Games team.

“Other kids or other people, if they want to wrestle, or want to do judo, we’re always training. So come on out. And if you’re too old for Arctics, that’s OK, there’s other Games … we’ll get to Nationals and stuff,” Basnett added.

For those interested in wrestling in the Arctic Winter Games or just coming to check it out, Grapple Yukon practices take place Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Yukon Regional Training Centre at 123 Copper Road in Whitehorse.

“Once we have the trials and decide the team, then we’re going to be practicing more often and then the Games are (the) end of January,” added Basnett.

Fall Brawl’ wrestling event coming to Whitehorse

The ‘Fall Brawl’ is coming to Whitehorse.

By Morris Prokop on November 22, 2022

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The ‘Fall Brawl’ is coming to Whitehorse. The high school wrestling event takes place Nov. 23 at CSSC Mercier in Whitehorse. Grapple Yukon is running the event.

There will be three types of matches: friendly, challenger, and grudge matches.

Grapple Yukon Head Coach Jason Basnett explained how the ‘Brawl’ came about.

“I’ve been coaching for a long time through wrestling and judo and in the last several Games we’ve just picked up kids from the judo club mostly and I taught them to wrestle and we went out for the Games. We did really well but I wanted very badly to get high school wrestling going again in the territory for quite a while. I coached the Christ the King school for the elementary school tournament that used to go on and was very successful at that but had nowhere for those kids to go afterward.

“My own kids got to be the age to do the high school thing so I coached the Canada Games this summer and before … so this year, earlier in the year, we re-formed the sport governing body because we hadn’t had one of those in probably a decade. We had to give it a new name, Grapple Yukon, because all the wrestling names were used.

“As you know, Judo Yukon’s been doing really well and we have a bunch of really good athletes in Judo Yukon that are able to cross over into wrestling cause the skills are so similar.

“I do judo as well,” related Basnett. “I’m a judo sensei (teacher) as well so over the last while it’s been building and building and just figured this was the year to try to make it and actually get back into the schools in some form. Ideally, this is just the first year and we’re gonna build from there. I’m hoping to have high school programs running in the next couple years and then maybe even get some elementary school programs running again and re-institute that giant elementary school tournament we had.”

According to a Grapple Yukon press release, the Elementary Wrestling Championships was the largest one-day school wrestling tournament in Canada. However, the tournament was cancelled in 2018 and has not returned.

It’s been 20 years since Whitehorse high schools have hosted a wrestling tournament.

“I’m a Yukon grown athlete,”said Basnett. “I was really sad to see Wrestling Yukon kind of sink. We lost a lot then by having that not happen and when they folded down, it was time to start a new organization.”

Yukon wrestlers have been having some success lately.

“The most successful (Yukon wrestling) athlete the first week of the Canada Games this summer was my athlete Jaymi Hinchy. She got fifth at the Games, beat several provinces … my son, Eban Basnett, as well as Jayden Iskra, they both beat guys from Newfoundland, which as you can appreciate, any territorial team to beat a province is really a big thing.

“Jaymi is an absolutely phenomenal athlete. She got silver at the Western Canada Summer Games and even that – she got robbed by the ref. It was just disgusting.”

Jaymi Hinchey is also the B.C. provincial champion in judo this year.

“We’ve had a lot of success with this small group of athletes that are doing both judo and wrestling and I just decided that it’s a good time to try to get back into the high schools and recruit more athletes,” recalled Basnett.

“We also have a coach up in Pelly, my friend Dave Gillis, who’s the president of our association. I’m the vice-president. He’s a teacher in Pelly. He’s a phenomenal coach, was a phenomenal athlete. He’s quite a bit younger than me. His experience is more recent, but he’s getting that fired up in the communities and we’re just trying to get it started up everywhere.

“You can get wrestling scholarships, you can go to the Olympics, there’s so many opportunities created by wrestling. I myself went to school on a wrestling scholarship for a little while, so I really wanted to give that back to the kids and get things fired up again and I think the territory’s been missing it.”

Gillis is also the assistant coach of Grapple Yukon.

Basnett explained how the upcoming event works.

“The Fall Brawl is just a fun day for the kids that are interested to come and we can match them up and they can do a friendly match, which is a match on your knees, so there’s not a lot of big throws or anything like that going on. It’s a little safer introduction.

“And then a challenge match where you start off standing and then you wrestle and if you pin your opponent, you win. So it can be a very short match.

“And then just for fun, we’ve introduced what we’re going to call a grudge match … a three-minute match and if you pin your opponent, we’re just gonna stand you up and keep wrestling. You get a point for that pin but it’s not over.”

According to Basnett, the idea is “to show them how insanely hard it is to wrestle for three minutes.”

“It’s fun. It’s a jamboree style, so everybody comes there and we just mark their weight class on their hand and then they’re able to go and find other kids … in the same weight class.

“We’re gonna keep track of who won … but it’s not gonna be a full tournament.

“Just gonna have fun, introduce them to wrestling, and show them a little bit of some judo demos, and give them a chance to try it with their friends.”

Basnett is also involved in Judo Yukon.

“I’m on the board of Judo Yukon and have been for quite a while,” he said.

“We have a really strong relationship with Judo Yukon. Pretty much all of our board members on one organization are on both and we work together, train in the same gym. Basically right now they’re all the same athletes … the two sports really mesh together beautifully and the crossover between them is big. Our secret to success in wrestling is that we’ve been using judo athletes for the last while.”

Males and females are welcome at the Brawl in several weight classes.

“Because the Arctic Winter Games are the next tournament we’re going to, we’re going by the Arctic Winter Games weight classes with one exception being that we’re going to have an open weight division for people that are bigger than the AWG classes and an open weight division for people that are smaller.”

There are six weight classes for girls and seven for boys.

“At this point, I think we have 20 or 21 kids coming from three different schools,” said Basnett.

Basnett said they will be picking the AWG team at the event in Pelly.

“What we’re trying to do is have this to get Whitehorse kids interested and then I’m running practices at the Yukon Regional Training Centre, which is 123 Copper Road. It’s a judo dojo. We have wrestling practices there Wednesdays and Sundays, so I’m hoping that we get kids interested at this Fall Brawl.

“Dec. 10 in Pelly Crossing we’re having a tournament there and … that’s gonna be the Arctic Winter Games trials … and the Pelly First Nation and the school and everybody is really excited to be hosting us. And we’re going to go up there and put on a show.”

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