Sabres surprising coach

Isaac Bernard of Guildford Park takes an opponent down during a match last season. Bernard is a favourite to repeat as a provincial champion this year. - FILE PHOTO /BLACK PRESS
Isaac Bernard of Guildford Park takes an opponent down during a match last season. Bernard is a favourite to repeat as a provincial champion this year.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO /BLACK PRESS

After back-to-back runner-up finishes at the provincial championships, Mark McRae wasn’t expecting the Guildford Park Sabres to challenge for a title this year.

But the head coach of the school’s high school wrestling team has been pleasantly surprised at the results so far this season.

“I thought this year would be a bit of a down year for the team but it looks like we are gonna be right in the mix again,” said McRae. “Do we have a shot at winning? I would say no, however stranger things have happened.”

The Sabres have won two of three major meets they have attended this year, adding the Miri Piri championship last weekend to the first place finish they earned at the SFU Elite competition in December.

Isaac Bernard is the team leader so far this season, after winning his second provincial championship in the 57 kg. class a year ago. The Grade 11 won gold medals at both tournaments, as well as earning Outstanding Wrestler honours at the Western Canada Age Class tournament Jan. 15 in Kamloops.

Octavio Villena is other other defending provincial champion on the Sabres team, winning gold last year in the 51 kg. group. Villena also took gold at the Miri Piri meet.

Two brothers battled for bronze in Abbotsford last week, with Jallab Maki defeating his younger sibling Adam in the 70 kg. weight class.

“Adam and Jallab are 2 years apart but exactly the same weight,” said McRae. “Come provincial’s, we may have to find a way to separate them. Last year, Jallab was dominating his younger brother, but this year Adam has narrowed the gap and looks poised to match his brother throw for throw.”

Guildford Park may also get some points in the team standings from rookie Jakob Rainbow, a Grade 10 wrestler in the 120 kg. category.  

“He has been steadily improving all year and has medaled in every tourney to date,” said McRae. “He has been working extremely hard at practice and looks to be an outside shot at a medal at the BC’s. He has been a pleasant surprise and I expect Jakob to be one of our scorers this year at provincials.”

Guildford Park is hosting the annual Slamfest all-Surrey tournament next Wednesday, and 130 wrestlers have registered. It’s the first major meet in a busy month of February, which will also include the Fraser Valley championships and the B.C. championship meet Feb. 24-26 in Campbell River.

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