Redemption came quickly for Manon Paquette.
After dropping both of her bouts, competing at the Ontario Juvenile/Cadet Provincial Championships last weekend at Laurentian University, representing the Junior Voyageur Wrestling Club, Paquette was back donning her high school singlet at theRon Preston City Championships Wednesday at Confederation.
Not only did the grade 11 Macdonald-Cartier Panthères wrestler walk away with a gold medal in the 51kg category, she was also recognized as the Female MVP this year.
"I've been wrestling very well, I find," said Paquette. "I've been wrestling some heavier girls. But club wrestling, I still have some work to do, because it's a higher level than what I am used to."
With that in mind, Paquette looked upon the SDSSAA meet as a chance to fine-tune in anticipation of both NOSSA and OFSAA, as well as a few other club tournaments the Junior Voyageurs may attend.
"The wrestling here is a little bit slower, so I can practice my technical," she said. "I like practicing my defensive moves. In club, you have to be really quick, so I need to know it down pat."
Paquette is not alone in looking to enjoy some success on the high school wrestling scene. "Locally, I'm looking to not lose at all," noted 89kg first place finisher Quade Howald of Sacré-Coeur.
"I haven't lost all year," he continued. "Provincially, I'm looking to place in the top six." Also a 16 year-old grade 11 student, Howald is hopeful that a return trip to OFSAA this March will yield better results than his junior season, combining his lengthy background in judo, with three years of wrestling workouts as a members of the Griffons.
"For me, my throws are good, and my ground fighting is very useful," said Howald. "I like going on the ground, but sometimes, I wait for the throw. I'm looking to do different ground moves this year. In my first match, I did two leg laces, so I was happy with that."
Confederation Chargers 115kg champion Racha El-Darazi is aiming even higher. "It's going to sound a little far-fetched, but I'm planning on winning at OFSAA," said the youngest of two wrestling sisters in the family.
"I just feel that this year, I just have it a lot more, I'm really able to push myself mentally." While the grade 11 student has made two trips to OFSAA since she arrived at Confed, victories at the provincial level have been elusive.
But she is hopeful that the experience she has garnered, over time, will finally pay dividends. El-Darazi was first introduced to wrestling by her older sister, Mira, back when she was in grade seven, working out with the local club before she joined the high school ranks.
"When we were younger, we always used to fight and box each other," said El-Darazi. "So she finally said to come out and try wrestling. I honestly fell in love with it the first time I tried it."
"It's the only sport that I can really do the way I want," she added. "And because it's an individual sport, it's really like a whole mental game. You have to be three steps ahead."
Despite capturing top spot in the five person field that wrestled in the 77kg division, Matt Daigle of Lasalle was far more subdued in terms of his long-term expectations. Partially because Daigle moved up a weight class upon his post-Christmas return to school, creating some extra challenges for the grade 12 athlete.
"Some moves are a little harder, because my opponents are a lot heavier," said Daigle. On this day, however, he conquered one and all. "I was a little sketchy in the first bout," he said. "I won by three points with a last second hip toss."
Like the others, Daigle is confident that a NOSSA title is within reach, if he remains vigilent to the pitfalls that stand in his way. "I need to still work on my positioning," he conceded. "I always get caught, off-guard, doing something that I probably shouldn't be doing."
"And I need to get to the legs more. I always just try and throw them." The local contingent will get a chance to put themselves to the test again next Friday (February 19th), when the NOSSA championships are contested in Sault Ste Marie.
Joining Paquette in earning some additional hardware were teammates Eathan Draper (MVP Boys) and Jasmine Tessier, who shared the Girls Rookie of the Year honours with Sheila Eshquib of Lasalle.
Ryan McDougall of Lockerby was named the Male Rookie Wrestler of the Year. Following is a complete listing of weight class winners from the Ron Preston City Championships:
38 kg - Simon Laurin (Macdonald-Cartier)
41 kg - Hugo Clement (Macdonald-Cartier)
54 kg - Declan Eldridge (Lo-Ellen)
57.5 kg - Riley McGee (Confederation)
61 kg - Ryan McDougall (Lockerby)
64 kg - Seth Leroux (Confederation)
67.5 kg - Eric Tessier (Macdonald-Cartier)
72 kg - Eathan Draper (Macdonald-Cartier)
77 kg - Matthew Daigle (Lasalle)
83 kg - Steven Sagle (Macdonald-Cartier)
89 kg - Quade Howald (Sacré-Coeur)
95 kg - Kole Poitras-Paulin (Lasalle)
130 kg - Zack Corcoran (St Benedict)
51 kg - Manon Paquette (Macdonald-Cartier)
54 kg - Mallory West (Sudbury Secondary)
57.5 kg - Trinity Antoine (Sacré-Coeur)
61 kg - Cora Audette (Confederation)
83 kg - Jasmine Tessier (Macdonald-Cartier)
115 kg - Racha El-Darazi (Confederation)
In terms of the team awards, the Lasalle Lancers claimed top spot in the boys' events (169 pts), as well as the overall aggregate (182), with Confederation capturing top spot in the girls divisions with 59 points, two better than Sudbury Secondary.