Whitehorse Daily Star

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SWEET VICTORY – Jason Iskra savours a victory after pinning his opponent from Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games in August.

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BATTLE BRAIDS – Leah McLean has her game face on for a match against a Quebec opponent at the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games in August.

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POWERFUL PIN – Lia Hinchey puts a 'will-crushing' pin on her opponent for the victory at the Canadian Mal Wrestling Club’s tournament at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C. Jul. 30.

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PROUD GROUP – Team Yukon shows off their medals at the Canadian Mal Wrestling Club’s tournament at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C. Jul. 30.

Fall Brawl' wrestling event coming to Whitehorse

The 'Fall Brawl' is coming to Whitehorse.

By Morris Prokop on November 22, 2022

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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