Masters of the mat

Bonnie Learning
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Team Newfoundland & Labrador wrestlers do province proud at Indigenous Games

The Team Newfoundland and Labrador wrestlers had a great showing at the North American Indigenous Games in Regina, Saskatchewan this past week, with two medals and some great placings. Members of the team (and some proud supporters) include, back, from left: Coach Randy Ralph, Mishkushish Pone-Pinette, Zack Michel, John Baptist-Andrew, coach Collin Baikie, Joachim Dyke, Seth Hurley, Gervais Michel, Kirkland Beanland; middle: Tshetshukus Benuen, Spencer Campbell, C.J. Bouellen; front: Angelina Rich. Submitted photo

A mixture of experienced and novice wrestlers from Newfoundland and Labrador are taking home some hardware and hard-fought personal satisfaction from the North American Indigenous Games in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Randy Ralph and Collin Baikie traveled to the Game with a 10-member wrestling team.

Ralph noted Spencer Campbell and Kirkland Beanland (from the Bay St. George area) are taking home the gold and silver in the 54-kg and 69-kg weight class, respectively.

“We also had three great, fourth-place finishes —

“Mishkushish Pone-Pinette, Zack Michel and Joachim Dyke from Sheshatshiu,” said Ralph.

The other Sheshatshiu wrestlers include Seth Hurley, Angelina Rich, John Baptist-Andrew and Jarvis Michel, and Tshetshukus Benuen.

The wrestling events took place Tuesday and Wednesday this week, however, the coaches and team members have stayed on to enjoy watching the rest of the events up until the close of the Games this Saturday.

“The competition was excellent,” said Ralph. “Our kids were competing against wrestlers from Florida, Idaho, Wisconsin…and all provinces and territories. It was not only a great athletic experience, but also a great cultural experience.”

Ralph said he is amazed by how far the wrestlers from Sheshatshiu, in particular, have come in such a short period of time.

“They’ve really come far in just one year of training,” said Ralph, who attributes their success in no small part to co-coach Baikie.

“They beat American wrestlers, who have been wrestling for years.”

Ralph said the kids represented Sheshatshiu “really well.”

“They are tough, athletic, smart kids,” he said. “They will eventually be leaders of their community. They are good kids.”


Baikie said he is very proud of all the wrestlers, and credits their success to their own hard work and dedication.

“They have natural talent and drive to be competitive,” said Baikie, who trains the kids when he is back home in North West River from his own Mixed Martial Arts training in Montreal.

“It’s amazing how these kids have trained in such a short time to compete with some of the best wrestlers not only in Canada, but from across North America.”

Baikie said the kids have really gained better listening skills and are able to see the bigger picture of what training can do.

“These kids competed with others who have attended 15-20 competition, and we had one wrestler (Zack Michel) who beat (one of those guys) in his first competition — and he’s only been wrestling a couple of months.”

“With just bit more experience, they’ll do fine.”

Baikie said the Sheshatshiu kids would never have gotten this far without the support of the Band Council and Ralph.

“Randy opened up the door for us to be here; he believed in these kids right from the start.”

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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