2006 - the One Hundredth Birthday........

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.........of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association, has been a wonderful year for wrestling..one of the best I can remember.

A special year needs special events, and this year the Centenary Challenges, the European Espoirs Championships and the CWWA Centenary dinner were all huge successes.

Jimmy Pringle, the mainstay of wrestling in Northumberland, was the man who suggested the series of high prize-money events, which became known as Centenary Challenges. The idea was to allocate categories to the three main areas of wrestling, Northumberland, North Cumbria and the Borders, and South Cumbria and North Lancashire, and ask Governing Board members in those areas to provide extra sponsorship, venues and formats. The Cumbrian Centenary Challenges were attached to the county shows at Carlisle and Kendal with the Ladies Challenge going to Penrith Show. Each of these provided an extra buzz to existing events which lifted the entries, the expectations and the crowd.

Best of all was the Northumbrian response when a special evening in the old Rothbury Mart brought a full house to the tiered seating round the ring and all the best wrestlers in great fettle from Scotland, Brittany and all our home regions. Even the old lags who fondly remembered the intense action and support of the old Academy League, fifty years ago, reckoned that the Rothbury Centenary Challenge had surpassed it all.

There were times when the organisers of the European Espoirs Championships of the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling thought they had been mad to pick up the responsibility of organising the event at ultra short notice after the Dutch had to cancel. But in the end the region did us proud. We found a perfect venue at Lime House School with a modern Sports Hall, good accommodation and food. An Olympic Quality Freestyle wrestling mat was hired from the British Wrestling Association. The County Council, Neighbourhood Forums and healthy range of local businesses helped to cover the several thousand pounds needed to stage the Championships, which were acknowledged as a great success by our international partners.

The Championships coincided with the CWWA Centenary Dinner, so the international teams joined over two hundred wrestlers and friends for a lavish presentation night at the Shepherds Inn, Carlisle, when old photos and old memories were enthusiastically reviewed.

Successful special events are fine and good, but would be a hollow matter if the annual routine was below par. Of course, there were occasional events with poor entries and wrestling rings blasted with rain, but, in general, the whole season was a joy to follow. The surge of interest in wrestling amongst youngsters at the old academies of Carlisle, Kendal, Milnthorpe and Waberthwaite was enhanced by the influx of wrestlers from the newly reformed Rothbury Academy who travelled widely and wrestled well. A ten week course of wrestling at Grasmere School brought wrestling back to the Rush Bearing, and extra wrestlers in the Lakeland events. At the end of the year an upsurge of interest in wrestling at Wyndham School, Egremont, led to over fifty lads turning up to after-school sessions.

There is no shortage of venues for wrestling, with sixty events spread over the Northern Counties and the Borders of Scotland from April to very late and damp October. The standard of wrestling, and the attacking style in general use, kept big crowds enthralled for hours, and came to a climax round the Bank Holiday weekend when one of the best teams of Breton wrestlers to compete in our area lifted the wrestling to new levels of intensity and skill.

From the moment that wrestling season roared into action beside a massive static engine running at full decibels at Hethersgill Vintage Society Rally at Carlisle Airport, to the time when Emily and Jenny squelched around in their spotted wellies at Buttermere Show, I have enjoyed every minute of a vintage wrestling season. And I have watched thousands of others delighting in the entertainment and excitement of our ancient and wonderful sport.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (December 31st 2006)

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