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WCSSAA District 8 wrestling returns after lengthy COVID layoff

Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School hosted the WCSSAA District 8 season opening wrestling tournament on Friday

Bodies hitting the mat and the thunderous roar of the crowd could be heard down the halls of Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School on Friday as the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association District 8 wrestling season got underway.

Two hundred and twenty-seven wrestlers from 11 schools across the Waterloo Catholic District School Board and Waterloo Region District School Board gathered in the gymnasium for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Greg Cinti, a design and communication tech teacher and behind-the-scenes lead for the tournament, the day was about more than who won and lost.

“This is huge,” Cinti said.

“For a lot of these kids, this is the place they can shine. A lot of these students don’t get the opportunity to play community sports, so having the ability to play it here at school and be involved in the school is great.”

Many of the wrestlers were brand new to the sport, with numerous students in either Grades 9 or 10.

With the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting the traditional high school experience, the tournament represents a return to normal, Cinti says.

“I think we always used to say ‘make the most of your high school career’ and we weren’t talking about academics when we said that,” Cinti said.

“For me as a teacher, part of the reason I teach is because of all the other fun stuff you get to do in the school. Through COVID, none of that was able happen. I was finding it different, getting to build relationships with the kids outside of the classroom wasn’t happening.”

It took a true team effort to put on this big of an event. A leadership class at the school helped run the tournament, putting in hours of work to ensure the matches went off without a hitch. Teachers and school staff could be seen answering questions and supporting the logistical side of things, while students, alumni and parents could be heard cheering in the stands.

With the first tournament of the season in the books, Cinti hopes the athletes continue to work hard both on the mat and in the classroom.

“I hope they take the excitement with them and it keeps them focused for the rest of the year through all their different tournaments,” he said.

“It will hopefully permeate down through their schooling. Athletics gets held as a bit of a carrot to them, the idea that you’re a student first and athlete second. If you want to be an athlete that student piece needs to be there, as well.”