Breton Backhold Championships in Gupavas

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The older wrestlers under the international flags at Guipavas

A small group of young wrestlers from Cumbria travelled the long roads to Plymouth and then Brittany to take part in the Breton Backhold Championships in Gupavas near Brest, and returned with smiles on their faces and a haul of medals.

Best of all was Connie Hodgson who won her own category and then went on to take the women’s trophy. When she first came to wrestle in these championships, we had to seek special permission as she was below the minimum age. We argued that she was used to hard work on the Hodgson farm and wrestling against lads and bigger opponents at Kendal Academy and the grass rings. This year that still applies, although at fourteen years of age she was now competing in the heaviest category of the open women’ event.

When she was a little tot she learned to survive and defend against much bigger opponents. She still does that, but she now has more power and technique. In the final of the Women’s Open competition she met the long-time star of Breton wrestling, Virginie Kerjean, who is from the host club, Guipavas. Virginie, weighing under 57kg, had already bustled her way through several wrestlers much heavier than her, but Connie had the upper hand throughout the final and came out on top by turning her opponent in and taking her forward.

The two youngest wrestlers, Sam Wilson (42kg) and James Hayhurst (68kg+), set the early pace by winning their sections. Sam was still the smallest wrestler in his group, but he relished the rare chance to meet opponents who were not twice his weight. He is a clever wrestler and he shone, especially when he won a close bout with the hank. James was wrestling with illness as well as the usual opponents, but his technique is so sound that he was always on top.

The Cumbrians with medals: L to r. Connie Hodgson, Matthew Atkinson, Sam Wilson (in front), Craig Naylor, James Hayhurst.

The two oldest wrestlers, Matthew Atkinson and Craig Naylor, both had tough assignments and came near to winning. Matthew was in an open weight section and one of his opponents was significantly heavier than him. When they first met, Matthew surpassed himself to win his pool, but in the final with the same wrestler, he was unable to repeat that success, so he had to be content with a silver medal. Craig was competing in the biggest group and showed great skill in winning his pool and then reaching the final which was a close affair. Wrestling best-of-five, Craig produced one of the falls of the day when he buttocked to level the score at two falls each. Sadly the decider went to the Breton by a slim margin.

The Guipavas Club must be complimented on the standard of the event which brought 130 wrestlers onto the mats, including three from Scotland and six from Spain. We now look forward to entertaining our Breton friends at our events round Grasmere Sports at the end of August.


Saturday, 5th March 7.30 pm The Academy Shield, hosted by Milnthorpe Academy The venue is Leasgill Atheneum, a village hall, two miles North of Milnthorpe in the Kendal area. (Post-code LA7 7ET, for those of you with sat-nav)

Wednesday, 9th March Carlisle Wrestling Club Junior Points.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (March 3rd 2011)

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