Group keen despite setback

All dressed up.... Southern Spartans wrestlers (from front) Jaxon Friend (13) and Izzy Arthur (12) train with coach Aron Miller in brand new cus tom tracksuits. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

The Southern Spartans wrestling team has had a successful season cut short by Covid-19, but is raring to go next year with new tracksuits.

The New Zealand Olympic Wrestling Union made the decision to call off this year’s national championships at a board meeting on October 14.

Southern Spartans coach Aron Miller said the team had been looking forward to participating in the tournament, which was supposed to have been held in Mount Maunganui last month.

“They’re pretty gutted.

“They put all this hard work and effort in and haven’t been able to show what they’re capable of,” he said.

The team had recently invested in matching tracksuits with the help of the Mataura Licensing Trust, Mr Miller said.

“We were looking to make a real statement. It would bring us together and make us look official. It gives the team some real pride in the way we present ourselves.”

The team of about 16 wrestlers ranged from as young as 4 up to 13, he said.

“It’s been a long season. We started in February. There’s a lot of planning and a lot of travel that goes into it.”

The Southern Spartans had performed well in the Southland, Otago, and South Island Championships, Mr Miller said.

“We were looking really good. All was going well and wrestlers were building up nicely for nationals.”

Five or six wrestlers in the team had qualified for the national championships and had already bought plane tickets.

“They have shown so much commitment and dedication this year and it’s a real shame that they aren’t able to show the rest of the country how tough they are here in Southland,” Mr Miller said.

“But it’s just the way things are at the moment. You’ve just got to roll with the punches. It’s really disappointing, but there’s always next year.”

Despite the anti-climatic end to their season, the young wrestlers had not lost motivation, he said.

“The kids are an inspiration. They just want to keep going. The kids wanted to train as long as possible.

“I haven’t had a group of wrestlers for a long time that have been keen to keep going into December. Usually by now they’re pretty keen to have a break, but these ones are gung-ho!

“The club will still have a break-up and give out club trophies as I truly believe that the wrestlers need to have their accomplishments celebrated and acknowledged,” he said.

New Zealand Olympic Wrestling Union president Marlene Pouri-Lane said the ongoing Covid-19 situation made it too difficult to hold the nationals as planned.

“The safety and wellbeing of all our members is important and this decision has not been taken lightly.”

The tournament will still be going ahead for juniors (17 to 21) and seniors in the new year, she said.