Just the beginning

Derek Montague
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Labrador wrestlers shine in first tournament

The 13 members from Collin Baikie’s MMA gym that flew out to Avondale for the School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador provincial wrestling championships. They include: Front (l-r) — Dana Penunsi, Leah Penashue, Tamara Katshinak, Zoie Michelin, Meeka Qupee and Shania Riche; back —Josh Dyke, Joshua Michel, John Baptiste Andrew, Mario Penunsi, Jarvis Michel, Mishushis Pinette, Shuashem Dyke and Collin Baikie (Coach).

A group of kids from Sheshatshiu and North West River surprised everyone, including themselves, at the School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador 2014 provincial wrestling championships.

Despite only having three weeks to prepare, the team won second place overall. Several of the wrestlers also won gold, silver, bronze, and sportsmanship medals at the event.

“I was trying my hardest and I trained real hard,” said Shuashem Dyke, who won two gold medals at the championships.

“I felt real happy.”

Fourteen-year-old Josh Dyke also won a gold, in the heavyweight division. Like Shuashem, wearing the shiny medal gives Josh a sense of pride and accomplishment.

“For me, it makes me happy,” said Josh.

But one didn’t need to win gold to get value out of the wrestling matches. Just like her teammates, Meeka Qupee is relatively new to wrestling. For her, the tournament was a learning experience.

“I learned a lot from wrestling. It was really fun,” said Meeka.

In total, 11 kids from Sheshatshiu and two from North West River flew out to compete in the wrestling event, which took place Feb. 21-22 in Avondale.

All 13 were trained and coached by Collin Baikie, an amateur mixed martial arts fighter from North West River, at a gym he set up in Sheshatshiu.

Baikie has been doing MMA sessions with the kids on and off for the past year, whenever he’s not busy training in Montreal. For Baikie, it brings him a lot of joy to pass on the skills he has learned.

“This is what I didn’t have growing up. I wanted to be on the wrestling team, but I didn’t have it,” said Baikie. “So what I learn in Montreal and the time I invest, I want to give back to the kids of Labrador.”

Baikie only found out that they were able to attend the provincial championships a couple months before the event. By the time he arrived back home in order to do some wrestling sessions with the kids, only three weeks remained.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of time to work with to prepare them but I made sure we drilled the basics everyday,” said Baikie. “We pretty much trained five to six days-a-week, including weekends.”

The coach and mentor became quickly impressed with the amount of dedication his students were showing. And the hard work paid off in Avondale.

“We did really, really well. The kids listened really well in the competition. The best thing about it is the kids gave 110 per cent. They gave it all they had,” said Baikie.

“Even watching these kids the past three weeks, you can see the improvement mentally and physically.”

It took more than hard work and dedication to arrive at the championships in Avondale. It certainly wasn’t cheap to fly Baikie, his wrestlers, along with the chaperones to the island. Luckily, the Sheshatshiu Innu Band Council, along with its chief, Andrew Penashue, was more than willing to help out.

“He (Penashue) supported it 100 per cent as soon as I asked him,” said Baikie.

The wrestling adventures aren’t quite over yet for some of Baikie’s students. Six of them, Shuashem Dyke, Jarvis Michel, John Baptiste Andrew, Mishushis Pinette, Meeka Qupee and Zoie Michelin, have qualified for the NL Winter Games in Clarenville.

“My goal is bring a banner home and another gold medal,” boasted Shuashem.

Organizations: Sheshatshiu Innu Band Council

Geographic location: Sheshatshiu, North West River, Avondale Montreal Labrador Clarenville

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