Nunavut’s wrestling team set for Western Canada Summer Games

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Wrestling is a sport which always finds Nunavut in good stead when it comes to roster size.

It’s no different this time around and the territory will be the largest contingent among
the North when the Western Canada Summer Games begin in Swift Current, Sask., next
month.

Eekeeluak Avalak of Cambridge Bay, bottom, gets Joel Netser of Pangnirtung in a fireman’s carry during the
Nunavut Wrestling Championships in Pangnirtung this past January. Avalak is one of 13 wrestlers from around the
territory who will compete at the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., next month.
photo courtesy of David Kilabuk

A total of 13 wrestlers will hit the mats looking to score a medal or a good performance of some sort and the man in charge of trying to help make that happen is Chris Crooks of Cambridge Bay, the team’s head coach.

“This is one of the bigger teams we’ve sent to a competition,” said Crooks. “We know
we’ll be bigger than the NWT and Yukon.”

Selecting the team was as easy as offering all of the champions of the various
weight classes from this past January’s Nunavut Wrestling Championships first crack at punching their ticket to Swift Current. To Crooks’ surprise, they all accepted.

“We put out the offers to them and they all said they wanted to go,” he said. “There
was room for one of our second-place finishers to make the trip and he’s going as well.”

A good chunk of the team – 10 of the 13 – got together in Cambridge Bay for a training
camp last month.

Crooks said the Pangnirtung wrestlers weren’t able to make it because of weather.
Two other members of the team – Eekeeluak Avalak and Kristen McCallum,
both from Cambridge Bay – left for Jasper, Alta., on July 19 and are spending a week at
the Rocky Mountain Wrestling Camp. The final week of training will happen in Edmonton beginning on Aug. 8 with the entire team having a five-day workout before jetting off
to Swift Current, Sask., on Aug. 13.

The wrestling competition at the Games will be a bit younger than what they’re used to
and there won’t be the same sort of calibre as one would normally see at a national championship or Canada Summer Games.

Crooks said a lot of wrestlers who would have been age eligible – U16 is the age limit
for wrestling – won’t be in Swift Current.

“Some of the top athletes who went to the Pan-American Championships or to Romania (for a training camp) turned down their spots,” he said. “Some will be there but not as
many as there could have been.”

Avalak is the biggest threat for Nunavut to hit the podium but Crooks said he will be
in tough right off the bat in his weight class.

“He’s going to be facing the reigning national champion in one of his matches
against Alberta,” Crooks said. “Overall, our best chance to win some matches will be against Yukon and the NWT and we should have some good matches against Saskatchewan
and Manitoba. It’s going to be exciting for all of them. A lot of them have never travelled to a big city before so this will be new.”

Western Canada Summer Games wrestling team and weight classes
Girls
Maggie Ejetsiak, 47 kg, Pangnirtung
Kiana Ekpakohok, 40 kg, Cambridge Bay
Darlene Amarualik, 53 kg, Iglulik
Kristen McCallum, 57 kg, Cambridge Bay
Kylie Kunuk, 65 kg, Iglulik
Aislyn Omilgoetok, 61 kg, Cambridge Bay
Chasity St. John, 74 kg, Arviat
Boys
Ezekiel Kilabuk, 46 kg, Pangnirtung
Alan Alivaktuk, 50 kg, Pangnirtung
Eekeeluak Avalak, 54 kg, Cambridge Bay
Neil Tulugayuk, 58 kg, Iglulik
Cody Qamukaq, 69 kg, Iglulik
Roy Goose, 76 kg, Cambridge Bay
Chris Crooks, Cambridge Bay (head coach)
Paula Cziranka, Cambridge Bay (assistant coach)