A long-time love of wrestling led RCMP Const. Josh Smith to start a wrestling club in Lytton when he arrived three years ago, and he’s watched the group grow and thrive over that time. The club allows children from grades six through 12 to learn the sport, and as of this past season compete in the zones tournament, as well as tournaments against other area clubs.
Smith began wrestling when he was in grade nine, and started a wrestling club in Fort St. John when he was posted there. It seemed only natural to do the same thing when he was transferred to Lytton.
“The first year the club was based at the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux School, the second year at Lytton Elementary, and last year we were at Kumsheen Secondary,” says Smith. There were between 20 and 25 students in the club last year, with high school students able to take part in the zones tournaments, and younger students able to compete against other clubs in local meets and at the year-end tournament against Lytton.
The club is open to boys and girls, and Smith says that a grade six girl from Lytton Elementary won her weight class against two high school girls in the year-end tournament.
Smith says one of the appeals of wrestling is that it’s a sport in which the individual doesn’t need a lot of money to compete. “It’s not like hockey.” The club was grateful for the donation of a wrestling mat that came from Nzen’man’ Child and Family Development Centre.
Wrestling is also a great way for youth to build self-esteem, he notes. “Many of the youth who come through the club have behavioural issues, and this helps them. Some people think martial arts will make rambunctious kids more boisterous, but it has the opposite effect. It calms them down, and gives them a proper outlet for their energy.
“It also teaches respect for opponents and teammates. I’ve talked to social workers who say that behavioural issues have improved in youth who have gone through the program.”
Smith is due to be transferred to a new posting this summer, but has high hopes that the club will continue the great work he has started. “I’ve trained two coaches in the community to carry on with the program, and they’ve expressed interest in continuing it,” he says.