The 2023 Saskatchewan Winter Games are coming, and members of the Northern Pikes Wrestling Club are ready to show they have what it takes to bring home the hardware.

This past Saturday (Jan. 21), the Pikes hosted Saskatchewan Winter Game trials at Carpenter High School, an event that featured not only members of the local club, but wrestlers from Loon Lake and Elrose.

“The Games, like the Olympics, happen once every four years,” explained Northern Pikes wrestling coach Chris Brownrigg. “They are the first stage in multi-sport Games. You have the Saskatchewan Winter and/or Summer Games, the next level up is the Canada Summer and/or Winter Games, with the next step beyond that being the Olympics. The Pikes did a good job filling out the Rivers West roster – our kids will represent the lion’s share of the team.”

The Northern Pikes athletes to qualify for the Winter Games are Grant Fillion, Isaac Berland, Scott Fillion, Noah Cappelle, Melody Eisenzimmer, Brooklyn Metchewais, Sarah Cavanagh and Annabelle Dupuis. Meanwhile, the athletes from Elrose who are moving on include Mykola Melnyk, Denys Kuzmych and Cailean Fehr, while coach Stuart Fontaine’s Loon Lake athletes Kaleece Kytwayhat and Daysianna Fontaine have also advanced.

The Saskatchewan Winter Games will take place in Regina Feb. 19-25. The purpose of the Saskatchewan Games is to provide an opportunity for the province’s developing athletes, coaches and officials to participate in a multi-sport event in preparation for, as Brownrigg noted, a higher level of competition.

“Representatives from nine different regions across the province will compete in their respective sports,” Brownrigg said. “As for the wrestlers, they will compete in two days of dual meets (a competition format in which two teams compete against each other). Team Rivers West will challenge, for example, Team Southeast and our 48-kilo kids will wrestle theirs and so on until, in the end, there is a team winner. The third day will feature an individual tournament, which is more like a traditional wrestling tournament. Everybody is in and there can only be one winner.”

This past weekend was the first time the Pikes have hosted Saskatchewan Winter Games trials.

“For the families, it was great for them to get to see the kids compete,” Brownrigg said. “The trials were followed by a training camp, which was led by Team Rivers West coach Frankie Gawryluik. It was also a good test run for us to understand the venue because Carpenter High School is hosting the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) regional championships the first week of March. We were able to lay out the mats and use this opportunity to determine how we will configure the gym for regionals.”

Meanwhile, the Pikes will attend their first club tournament this coming weekend.

“The first couple of tournaments this season were a little further away than we could accommodate, but we’re going to our first club tournament this Saturday in Swift Current,” Brownrigg added. “In March, we will likely be taking some athletes to the national championships in Vancouver, so there will be a huge fundraising effort for that coming up as well as for our immediate needs as they pertain to the Winter Games.”

As for the high school wrestling team, Brownrigg said there are more athletes on the roster this year than last.

“We’ve lost a few to injuries, but it’s a tough sport,” he said. “They’re healing up well, but I don’t think they’ll be back this season. Everybody is having fun, though. Thanks to the community for its continued support for the club, as well as for the high school program.”

by Phil Ambroziak