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John Oliver wrestlers strike silver and gold

John Oliver Wrestling Team finished its longest season ever and proved it was a force to be reckoned with at the 2010 Canadian Cadet Wrestling Championship held April 9-11 at Simon Fraser University.

John Oliver's student athletes competed in their age groups against top competitors from across Canada and came back with the school's best results ever.

In the Juvenile division (17 & 18 years) Rowena Cacapit won gold, which is the school's first gold medal in 25 years, and first ever for a female athlete. Sanjay Rekhi earned a silver medal while San Naing placed sixth.

In the Cadet (15-16 years) division, Manpreet Virk and Kyle Nguyen won silver medals while Brent Sebela placed fifth.

Manpreet Virk wrestles

Manpreet Virk (in red) wrestles at the 2010 Canadian Cadet Wrestling Championship.

Chris Fuoco, wrestling coach at John Oliver, is pleased with the team's success at the nationals and said that in the past six years, the John Oliver team has steadily built on its successes.

"In the beginning, our team could not even get a single wrestler qualified for the Triple A tournament, and we would barely be able to compete at the double As. It took three years to earn our first five entries. We earned a fourth place in the Triple As in year three, and by year four, we had three provincial bronze medalists and then we were off. "

He explains that 2009 was a breakthrough season and led to a total of eight top six places including five medals.

"After an estimated 25 year drought John Oliver had a Triple A champion and earned its first female champion in Rowena Cacapit. Another Grade 12 wrestler, Sanjay Rekhi, came off an 18-month injury rehabilitation to earn an impressive bronze medal and Grade 10 Manpreet Virk took sixth.

"Our team has students from a variety of backgrounds including some from district special needs programs, visually impaired, mini-school, alternate education programs, elementary schools and the secondary school general population, " said Fuoco.

Rowena Capacit on podium

Rowena Capacit (in white) receives her gold medal at the 2010 Canadian Cadet Wrestling Championship.

Fuoco said the coaching support from alumni Mark Ballon and Steve Gill was invaluable this year. Ballon graduated in 2008 and has worked in John Oliver's Youth Zone summer program as well as coaching wrestling during the school year.

"Kids don't get cut from our team and if they work hard they all improve," said Ballon. "The kids that excelled were no different than any others they just committed and earned their results."

Ballon is set to enter University of Western Ontario in the Fall to re-pursue his wrestling career and Olympic dream.

Fuoco also credits MoreSports' Youth Engage Learn Lead (YELL) program which has trained youth leaders and coaches to help with their program.

"Support from the BC wrestling community has also been invaluable at helping our athletes be the best they can be," said Fuoco.

SFU and BC Wrestling has also been a big support and its alumni has supported John Oliver with donated equipment and time on the mat with their coaches. "The head wrestling (and former Olympic) coach from SFU, Mike Jones, came to John Oliver on several occasions to hold clinics for our kids in the past 4 years. He's great with the students and inspires them to go far beyond what they thought was possible."

Fuoco points out that Tupper Secondary, UBC and Khalsa Wrestling clubs have allowed the John Oliver coaches to get exposure to elite wrestling in BC, which has transformed his wrestlers into formidable opponents.

Pictured at top: Sanjay Rekhi (in red) pins down an opponent at the 2010 Canadian Cadet Wrestling Championship.

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