Eighteen young wrestlers did our region proud.........

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............when they competed in Carhaix, Brittany in the Breton Backhold Championships. No fewer than seven wrestlers came away with winners' medals, and four more reached finals.

Pick of the youngest wrestlers was Jack Brown of Carlisle Wrestling Club who felt sick with nerves before he started but came alive to win the 46kg class which had the biggest entry of wrestlers. Wrestling best-of-five all the way, first in a pool, then in the cross-ties and finals, he showed the Bretons a full repertoire of chips as well as concentration and poise.

His sister Katie did much the same with the 56kg group, revelling in competing on equal terms with girls her own age and weight, for often she wrestles with lads and bigger girls.

One of our wrestlers might not have been allowed to wrestle at all. Connie Hodgson of Dent was younger than anyone else on the mats. In the week before we set out I discovered that she was too young for any of the categories, so I emailed a Breton official with a plea: Connie has been wrestling against older opposition for some years. In addition, at Kendal Academy she also trains and competes with boys who are older than she is. She is a tough, cheerful girl, a farmer's daughter, well used to hard physical activity. The plea was accepted and Connie went on to smile her way through bout after bout, winning most of them, to finish second in the 45kg class.

Joe Thompson of Alston is also a smiley character, but his wrestling made him more akin to Dr Death. He won his first bout with a neat twist, nothing spectacular, but enough to put his opponent in hospital. His second opponent went much the same way but without the ambulance. I think the rest gave in. The only real scare he had was when his medal disappeared when he was warming down in a neighbouring room, but it turned up at the organisers' table.

Minthorpe Academy had some good results with Douglas Parsons and Jack Lashley winning their age group at 68kg and 68+. The enthusiasm of the Milnthorpe lads and their coach, David Parsons, after their participation last year was a factor in the decision to take a much larger group over to Brittany this year.

Two of the older wrestlers opted to compete in the Seniors rather than the age section for which they qualified. John Harrington could have had an easy time of it, but instead dropped himself into one of the two biggest and most competitive groups. He wrestled with all his usual flair and control, won his pool but then was felled in the semi-final cross tie in one of those bouts which could have gone either way. There were winning falls off the mat, a long break from action because of an injury to his opponent and some very close calls in the judging. He ended with his wrestling reputation intact, but no medal.

Joe Harrington was guaranteed a medal in his age-group, for he was the only entrant, but like his half-cousin, he too went into a strong class of seniors. He wrestled well but ended up fifth out of ten powerful 90kg men. In the end though he performed wonders in the All Weights class which finished off the event, wrestling through to the semi-finals.

Richard Fox, the only genuine senior wrestler by Breton definition, found himself in the same group as the Breton champion Matthieu Le Dour and John Taylor of Scotland who are well respected in our rings. He was involved in several excellent bouts, but in the end it was Taylor who felled Le Dour in the 81kg final.

Our only Senior winner was 16 year old Tracy Hodgson of Dent, for the older girls were mixed in with the women. She and Donna Thompson wrestled out the final of the 70kg+.

The 24 wrestlers, parents and officials which set out for Carhaix made up a disparate group of all ages and from all round the region. During the visit they transformed into a good-humoured, supportive group.

The town of Carhaix and its local wrestling club, and the Gouren Wrestling Federation, provided a marvellous event, with three rings constantly in action for nearly seven hours, an attractive venue, and excellent hospitality, and a welcome travel subsidy.

Date

Wed 14th March Carlisle Wrestling Club Final Points Night

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (March 8th 2007)

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