Bill Brooks said his wrestling club has benefited from having a membership that is high on siblings, which lets kids in the same household practice wrestling technique without worrying about physical distancing. Pictured with the kids to the left is Grapplers coach Americo Pene. (Submitted photo)

Chilliwack Grapplers wrestling club weathers COVID storm

The fledgling club has had to get creative to stay afloat in a time of physical distancing

If there’s one sport you’d figure would suffer more than all others during a pandemic, it would be wrestling.

How can a sport built around close human contact exist in a world of physical distancing.

That’s the question Bill Brooks has had to answer these last few months as he’s guided his Chilliwack Grapplers through a tumultuous time.

But the young wrestling club that just celebrated its one year anniversary in July is not just surviving. It’s thriving, with Brooks looking to build on a rock-solid foundation.

“We had a very exciting first year and then COVID hit, and we’ve been in the same group as hockey and rugby and sports like that,” he said. “It has been challenging, but we’ve been following return-to-play guidelines, including screening our athletes and wiping down all of our equipment.

“As for as actual wrestling, we just got a couple wrestling dummies on loan that finally allow the kids to do some throwing and grappling and practice technique.”

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Brooks said the Grapplers have benefited from having a membership that is heavy on siblings. Where kids from different families wouldn’t be able to pair off and wrestle, kids from the same ‘bubble’ can.

Thirty per cent of the Grapplers are siblings.

“That allows us a little flexibility to do some contact stuff,” Brooks said.

The group lost its main workout space in the spring when Evergreen Hall was closed to the public. In a case of making lemonade out of lemons, Brooks was forced to move the club’s workouts outdoors.

On Tuesday night he had mats set up at Townsend Park.

“It’s entirely because of COVID, but truth be told, it’s been pretty pleasant,” he said. “On a warm summer evening, we’re laughing and joking and running sprints, catching up on what everyone’s doing for the summer.

“I actually prefer it, and if I could ever find a covered tent, we’d be good to go.”

Brooks knows a lot of kids who normally play one of the ‘rough and tumble’ sports like rugby might be looking for something to do right now, and he said his Grapplers will welcome new members.

“Anyone who plays a sport that requires low-to-the-ground mobility, our program can augment that,” he said. “The UBC rugby team proactively started to work out with a wrestling club for that very reason, because they recognize the benefits of some time on the mats.”

Before the pandemic hit the Grapplers had lots of momentum. Brooks was planning to have in-school demos and build up the membership, and it’s still his goal to get as many kids out as possible.

“If someone is active, we invite them to join us and see what we’re all about.”

For more info, email or check out the club’s Facebook page.


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