The Lorne Akins Crush wrestling team owned the podium at the Provincial Junior Olympics last Saturday in Calgary.
The medal haul included four gold, six silver and four bronze.
"It's below our record of 21 [set in 2007 and equalled last year] but considering we only took 22 wrestlers, of which four were Grade 9s, the results were very gratifying," said co-coach Barrie Schulha, who founded the junior high wrestling club at Lorne Akins School 32 years ago. "It was a great conclusion to a long wrestling season. The Crush squad usually carries numbers of 40 to 50 to provincials but this year we found ourselves left with a very dedicated, hard-core squad heading into the end of the season."
Ethan Ferro, a hulking Grade 9 heavyweight, needed less than a minute to pin his opponent from Edson in the 110-kilogram final.
"It was awesome," said the six-foot-four bruiser. "It was pretty cool to win gold at provincials. At the start of the season I thought I had a chance to do it so I'm pretty happy."
Ferro, 14, pounded his rivals into the mat in all three matches at provincials.
"Ethan totally dominated his competition on the way to gold. Most of his matches were over in 30 seconds," said co-coach Craig Baba. "He really became a much better technical wrestler as the season progressed."
Leading up to provincials, Ferro beat a 324-pound foe on his way to gold at the Ottewell all-boys' tournament in January.
His only loss of the season was by a pin at the University of Alberta Paperweight last month.
"When the whistle blows I'm just right on the guy. I try to get it over with quick because I don't have much endurance but I have a lot of strength," said Ferro, who was unable to wrestle at zone 5 trials for the Lakeland 2010 Alberta Winter Games because there is no heavyweight category.
The Edmonton Wrestling Club member will now gear up for nationals in April. He credits the Crush coaching staff for giving him the confidence to succeed.
"I like them," he said. "They're always encouraging you to do your best. They don't really care if you win or lose as long as you try hard and that's what I tried to do."
Logan Brubaker was pure gold in the 54-kg category to cap off a banner rookie campaign.
"Logan wrestled incredibly well all season and totally dominated his opponents at provincials," said Baba, a Crush coach for 15 years. "He is a super Grade 7 athlete with a great attitude. He is very coachable and thinks very well on the mat. He will definitely be one of our flagship wrestlers for the future."
In the fourth and last match at provincials, Brubaker pinned down gold in the first round.
"Coming out of the Paperweight, which is a really hard tournament that I didn't do very well in, this was a good confidence builder for me," Brubaker said. "In Paperweight it's just weight, where as in provincials it's weight and grade so it's a lot easier for a Grade 7 wrestler."
At provincials his toughest test wasn't the final.
"In the match before, the person I wrestled was more skilled than the person I wrestled in the final so it was more difficult but I still won."
The 12-year-old wasn't intimidated in his provincial debut.
"There was some pressure but after awhile, especially when you win the first two matches, you just let it go and have fun," said the 55-kg winner at the Ottewell tournament.
Brubaker had the time of his life wrestling for medals with the Crushers.
"It was really great. What I like about wrestling as opposed to a lot of other team sports is that it's just you and the opponent, whereas in hockey, if you lose the goalie could've had a bad game or the puck could've bounced weird. In wrestling it's like the better person who wrestles the best wins."
Tiny but tough
Size wasn't an issue at provincials for Katja Randall, the 40-kg gold medallist.
"They were all heavier than me so it was kind of interesting," said the Grade 8 Crusher who throws a wicked hip toss.
Of the four matches Randall won, the final was the hardest.
"She was the one that was the most heaviest. She had the most strength and she had beat everybody else."
Randall, 13, captured gold on points with a three-round decision.
"At the end I wasn't sure I had won because I had lost the first round," she said. "The reason why I won was because of our magical coaches. They tell you what your opponent was doing and how you can react to that and I listened to them."
Randall was surprised by her provincial success.
"Last year I didn't win any matches. This year I attended a lot more practices and I actually paid attention," said the 37-kg silver medallist at the Archbishop MacNeil all-girls' tournament in January and the fourth-place finisher at Paperweight. "It felt good because this year I didn't want to be the person that let the team down. I felt bad last year because I didn't get a medal."
Rounding out the Crush gold medallists was Hayley Allan, a budding Grade 7 grappler who was unbeatable at provincials at 56 kg.
"Hayley had a great season. She is a very gritty styled wrestler who studies martial arts as well. She comes by her talent honestly, as her dad wrestled for the Salisbury Wrestling Club," Schulha said of the silver medallist at the MacNeil tournament and winter games' qualifier at 57 kg. "She always comes off the mat smiling and is a real team leader. She has a great future in wrestling."