When Mason Montgomery gets knocked down on the mat, he just gets up and goes at it again.
The young Mariposa Wrestling Club grappler was among the hundreds that came to Orillia this weekend to participate in the Canada East Wrestling Tournament at Rotary Place.
“This is my second year wrestling,” said the 11-year-old from Orillia. “It's a very fun sport. You work hard and even if you don't win, you still learn.”
What Montgomery has learned is you can't win everything, but you can learn from your mistakes.
It’s the same lesson his peer Lauren Smith has learned.
“I get upset (when I lose), but I don't let it tear me down,” said the 12-year-old. “I keep going.”
The Orillia resident started wrestling after her family started jiujitsu in Midland.
“I like how intense it is and the feeling of winning a match,” said Smith. “You feel like you're on top of the world.”
As a wrestler, she said, she has gained much confidence and leadership.
“If you're a leader in your club, then it definitely shows on the mat,” said Smith. “If you do get out and coach the little kids, it really helps.”
When dealing with her opponents, she said it can be a bit nerve wracking if you think your challenger is really good.
“But if you just believe in yourself, then you can do it,” said Smith.
Increased confidence is definitely a side effect of wrestling, as well as learning how to defend oneself, said Austin Brabant, who started wrestling because he likes combat sports.
“I like learning new moves and how to fight against opponents,” said the 11-year-old from Barrie. Wrestling, he added, doesn’t necessarily require a lot of physical strength.
“It's more of a smart sport — technique is key,” said the K-Bay (Barrie) team member. “You practice every day and you get better.”
And wrestling, he said, is a way to make friends; he became friends with Hudson Dyck who is from Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“I started wrestling because I saw my brother doing really well at wrestling in school — and I don't like hockey,” said the 11-year-old Brock Jr. Badgers wrestler.
“It's really competitive and athletic, so it's really fun to do it,” he said. “When you lose, you get an idea of how they got you down and it's easier to get them next time.”
The weekend event saw 386 wrestlers from various parts of Canada, such as P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario take part in matches. The three categories of wrestlers vying for glory were Novice (grades 3–4), Kids (grades 5–6), and Bantam (grades 7–8).
The tournament takes place at locations around Canada on a rotating basis, explained Bob Parsons, organizer and long-time Mariposa Wrestling Club coach.
Orillia won the bid for a second time after 10 years, he said.
“For the community, between Orillia and Barrie, we've always had a really strong wrestling program, but this really puts it out there,” said Parsons. “We get people in to watch it and if parents get interested, they want to learn a bit more.”
Even though this is the year-end championship tournament for these age groups, he said, “We don't put that label on it because we don't want to put that stress on the kids.”
Contrary to how worked up some of the coaches got, as they egged on their wrestlers, Parsons said it’s all about fun for the kids.
Even in their off season, he said, he encourages his students to keep active.
“I'm a big believer in having all the kids go out and play every game and every sport,” he said. “I just want them to go out and play, I don't want them sitting in the house.”