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(Left) Holding on... Southern Spartans wrestlers Ruby Friend (top) holds down Jess Harrison during the under-10 20kg bout at the Southland Wrestling Championships in Gore on Saturday. (Right) Bring it on... Southern Spartans wrestler John Steele (in blue) takes on Rangiora's Luke Hopkinson in a competitive bout at the Southland Wrestling Championships. PHOTOS: KAYLA HODGE

Hosting the largest South Island wrestling championship this year has been “incredibly positive” for Southern Spartans Wrestling founder Aaron Miller.

The Southland Wrestling Championships were held in Gore at the Eastern Southland Basketball Association facility on Saturday.

“I believe it was bigger than South Island championships – it was very positive,” Miller said.

About 60 athletes, ranging in age from 5 to 40, from Dunedin, Mosgiel, Rangiora, Timaru, Queenstown and Gore, competed in the event.

The contest was open to both men and women who competed in two styles of wrestling: freestyle and Greco-Roman.

The competition was split by gender and weight class to ensure all bouts were fair.

Miller said 14 Spartans athletes competed and they produced great results.

“Briyden Turnbull won the 10 to 13 35kg group, Ruby Friend won the under-10 20kg group and Jayden Hunter won the under-10 32kg group – all members of the club here in Gore.”

Miller’s highlight of the day was watching Spartan member Hannah McKenzie wrestle for the first time.

“Hannah [had] said if her daughter won her final bout at another competition she would compete at the Southland champs. It was great to see.”

Miller said McKenzie began attending his adult classes and believed she had “great potential”.

McKenzie had been a strong competitor for her first bout and had enjoyed herself, Miller said.

Miller created the Southland championships three years ago to provide another platform for wrestling.

“I started the event because I love wrestling. I’ve been competing since I was 5 and hope I’m competing until I’m 70. It’s such a fantastic sport.”

Southern Spartans athletes are to compete in the Otago championships at the end of next month. The event will be co-hosted by the Southern Spartans and held in Dunedin.