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Teens make the Oceania mat

Two South Wairarapa teens hope to grapple, throw, and body slam their way to a medal in the international ring.

Angus Read, 15, and 14-year-old Nate George will represent the Featherston Amateur Wrestling Club at the 2023 Oceania Wrestling Championships, in Sydney from August 8-9.

There, the young athletes will compete in the Under 17 freestyle wrestling category – where they will face their first international opponents, some of whom will be several years older and more experienced.

Angus and Nate were selected for the Oceania tournament at the New Zealand National Championships in October, where both boys delivered an impressive performance in their respective weight classes. Nate took home a gold medal in the under 57kg class, while Angus won bronze in the under 47kg category.

Both boys have their game face on ahead of their international outing: Training several times a week with head coach and club president Jeremy Sargent, and fundraising to cover the costs of the trans-Tasman trip.

The wrestlers have high hopes of more podium placements – though, regardless of placement, their coach says the experience will be “good learning”.

“They’ll be some of the youngest in their category. They’ll be up against 17-year-olds, and guys from Australia and the Pacific Islands, which will be an interesting experience for them,” Sargent said.

“This time, we’re focused on the learning side of it – training properly, eating well, setting goals, and building up their skills. It will be challenging for them – but ultimately, their goal is to wrestle well and, hopefully, medal. They’re very focused.

“We couldn’t be more proud of Nate and Angus’ achievements. We know they will be excellent ambassadors of our community overseas.”

Angus [from Martinborough] and Nate [Greytown] have been wrestling since 2016 – and were “some of the first guys to show up” once the almost 90-year-old Featherston club was revived after a five-year hiatus.

Angus was playing junior rugby and decided to try wrestling to help improve his tackling skills.

Rugby eventually fell by the wayside and wrestling became a mainstay in Angus’ sporting calendar. He was joined in the ring by Nate, who came along to the club to “see what it was all about”.

Eventually, the boys went on to compete at wrestling events around the country: starting with the Featherston club’s annual Triangular Tournament [held in partnership with the Tawa and Waikanae Wrestling Clubs] and Wellington regional competitions.

They then graduated to the New Zealand Secondary Schools, New Zealand Club, North and South Island, and New Zealand National Championships.

Once the wrestlers arrive in Australia, they will attend a training camp over several days, working alongside fellow Kiwi wrestlers and several different New Zealand coaches.

Leading up to their departure, they will train twice to three times a week, including sessions at the Tawa Tigers Wrestling Club with coach Graeme Hawkins – a former New Zealand competitor at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

Aside from physical stamina, a successful wrestling match is “all about personality”, Sargent said.

“You need to be determined and dedicated – and resilience is important.”

Angus said he has some nerves about the Oceania tournament, but expects them to dissipate once the first whistle sounds.

“It is nerve-wracking when you step onto the mat, and everyone’s looking at you. But then you’re just focusing on the match and controlling your opponent.”

The wrestlers and their families are holding various fundraisers, including an Ambrose golf tournament at Martinborough Golf Club, to help cover expenses, including flights, accommodation, entry fees and their New Zealand uniform.

The club is keen to hear from any local businesses interested in sponsoring the boys.

Angus [left] and Nate engage in a friendly match. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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