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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Cumbrian wrestlers return with eight titles

Eleven wrestlers, a long way from home, had a marvellous haul of trophies. The Breton Backhold Championships were held in Guipavas, a town on the outskirts of Brest, and wrestlers from Northumberland, Carlisle, Waberthwaite and Kendal won eight championship trophies and several medals.

Amazingly each wrestler was in a different category by differences of age or weight, so that for example Haydon King and James Hayhurst, who would have normally been lumped together in our events, were free to wrestle others. In the whole championships none of our wrestlers wrestled against a compatriot.

There were plenty of others to confront, for there were 130 competitors, including wrestlers from Poland and Sardinia. Wrestling best-of-five falls, none of our wrestlers had an easy ride, for the Bretons are now well versed in our backhold style, and use it regularly in their training sessions.

To cap it all two Kendal wrestlers won trophies for the best performances in all the wrestling. Connie Hodgson not only won the Breton Female Championship, and the “all categories” session when she beat all-comers, but she also collected the trophy for the best female wrestler. Although she was pressed hard she lost only one fall in the semi-final of the open competition.

Sam Wilson of Kendal hardly ever has a level chance while wrestling in England because he is slight of build, but those of us who follow wrestling closely know that he is a talented wrestler waiting his time.

Even at Guipavas he seemed out weighted by most of his opponents, but not drastically so, and he was able to summon all his skills to redress the balance. With panache, he inside-clicked and hanked his way to victory, and was awarded the trophy for the best wrestler of all the juniors.

James Hayhurst won his group, but his best performance came the previous night when at a training night laid on by the Guipavas Club, he became involved in a “winner-stays-on session, where he monopolised the mat against all-comers till exhaustion felled him.

Haydon King showed that he is developing strongly as a complete wrestler, and won his falls with conviction. William Atkinson, Ben Brocklebank and Thomas Gibson also continued to show last year’s good form to win their groups.

The other winner was also one of the trainers and a chauffeur for the trip. Darren Whitfield was doubtful whether he was fit enough to take part, and his stiffness was not helped by the warming-up session the previous night, but he put all that behind him on the day and is Breton Backhold Champion 2012 for heavyweights.

Only one wrestler came away without a trophy. Craig Naylor lost his first bouts and was outside the medals, but he suddenly came to life in the Open competition at the end and took part in one of the best bouts of the day when he stood two falls each and after two dog-falls, lost the decider to Tudy le Meur, one of the best Breton wrestlers to grace our rings in Cumbria.

The trip was a triumph for our wrestlers, but it was also great experience for them, and we cannot thank enough our generous hosts the Guipavas Club and particularly Jean-Ives l’Her and Marie-Thé Priol. As the Gouren web-site comments, the trip was part of “une habitude d’accueil et d’échanges sportifs et culturels.” - a tradition of hospitality, and sporting and cultural exchanges.

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