Canadian wrestlers take positives from inaugural Junior Pan-American Games
CALI, COLOMBIA— Wrestling Canada Lutte’s (WCL) team that represented the country at the inaugural Junior Pan-American Games, Dec. 1-4, in Cali, Colombia has returned home with much needed international experience. While the team didn’t bring home any medals, given the training challenges over the past year and a half, the coaching staff still saw good things at the event.
“While they were not the results we wanted, there were many positives,” said Kimin Kim, WCL NextGen coach. “This was a young team. They had many obstacles to overcome with the pandemic. Training was severely limited for these athletes. However, they persevered and made it to the first ever Junior Pan-Am Games. They were presented with challenging draws but wrestled to the best of their abilities. Despite the losses, the team bonded extremely well and enjoyed the experience of being part of the Games.”
Those challenging draws began in the women’s 57kg weight class, where Barrie, Ontario’s Bronwyn MacGregor kicked off the tournament against Cuba’s Yaynelis Verdecia. The 17-year-old from the Kempenfelt Bay Wrestling Club dropped the contest 10-0 but with Verdecia going on to win the gold, MacGregor had an opportunity for a bronze through the repechage. However, while battling an injury, MacGregor dropped the bronze match, by fall, to Mayra Alvarez of Venezuela.
Ajax, Ontario’s Nyla Burgess drew Mexico’s Sandra Menchaca in the first round of the 68kg weight class. Burgess, 19 and from Team Impact Wrestling Club battled well but came up short in the match, losing 5-2. Menchaca progressed to the final, eventually taking silver, so Burgess had a chance at a bronze in the repechage. However, in the bronze, she would lose another close one, this time 4-0 to Gloria Febles of the Dominican Republic.
Dechlan Papadopoulos, competed in the men’s 57kg freestyle weight class. The Toronto native got off to a tough start, losing his opening match to the eventual gold medalist, Osmany Martinez from Cuba, 11-0. The 19-year-old, from Team Impact Wrestling Club, got a repechage match for bronze but fell just short to American Richard Figueroa, 5-0.
Montreal’s Jason-Guy Luneau also opened the Games with a tough matchup against the eventual gold medalist in the 65kg freestyle weight class. Luneau, from the Montreal Wrestling Club, lost the opening match to American Lukas Chittum 10-0. Luneau, 20, entered the repechage and won his first match against Leandro Cabrera of the Dominican Republic 8-5, to earn a bronze medal match against Cuba’s Inoisbel Pitaluya. Unfortunately, Luneau was defeated 11-0.
While the results were not what Kim was looking for, he still has a positive outlook for the athletes’ future. “Both NextGen coach Carol Huynh and I look forward to continuing to monitor the progress of these athletes, while helping them move upwards and onwards in their wrestling careers.”