Wrestlers on a Surrey school team won another provincial-championship banner in tribute to a team member killed in a single-vehicle crash not long ago.
Taren Lal, 17, was heading home after a long day of work Jan. 7 when he lost control of his vehicle in Langley, near Fraser Highway and 228 Street.
On Saturday (Feb. 25), less than two months later, his Tamanawis Secondary teammates rallied to win a fourth-consecutive B.C. boys wrestling title at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, beating the second-place team (W.J. Mouat of Abbotsford) by a whopping 27 points.
“We had a bit of extra energy,” confirmed Tamanawis co-coach Jessy Sahota. “We all had a conversation before the tournament, that it would be dedicated to Taren Lal, and I know that all of the wrestlers had that in the back of their heads this weekend.”
Sahota said Taren was “a go-to person” on the school wrestling team, “the one everyone would go to, and he was a very positive person. He is missed.
“We’re in talks with the school principal to somehow celebrate this victory and also honour Taren, so he’s remembered as well,” added Sahota, who co-coaches with brother Paul (Pola) Sahota, Shaan Randhawa and others.
At the PNE arena, nine Tamanawis wrestlers earned points as top-six finishers in their weight categories, including gold-medalists Karanjot Dhillon, Jastej Mundi and Rohit Bal, silver-medalists Manjot Sangha and Justin Lalli, bronze winner Mustafa Nasir, fourth-place finishers Heytan Bal and Yuvraj Virk and sixth-place grappler Angad Atwal.
“All of our wrestlers showed up, and some, we did not expect them to place but they did, and it was beyond our expectations,” Sahota explained. “Our wrestlers really put their best foot forward and practiced hard to represent the school the best they can.
“The margin of (team) victory, that was a huge surprise to us,” he added. “As coaches we do some calculations heading in, and we thought the best-case scenario was that we would win by five to seven points, not by 27.”
In the Team Male competition, Tamanawis was one of three Surrey school teams to finish in the top six, followed by Queen Elizabeth (third place) and Enver Creek (sixth).
Surrey-area wrestlers to win weight categories were Tanya Dhillon of Semiahmoo (Female 51 kg), Gaurav Bahi of Earl Marriott (Male 41 kg), Karanjot Dhillon of Tamanawis Secondary (Male 45 kg), Rohit Bal of Tamanawis Secondary (Male 78 kg), Jastej Mundi of Tamanawis Secondary (Male 90 kg) and Aykam Takhar of Fleetwood Park (Male 130 kg).
Maple Ridge Seconary won the female team competition at provincials, and Gibsons’ Elphinstone won the aggregate title.
Sahota said the Tamanawis wrestling team is very proud of winning a fourth straight B.C. boys banner.
“We’re fortunate, because we didn’t see this coming so quickly, we were thinking maybe 10 or 15 years down the road when we started here,” Sahota said. “But we got lucky, the stars aligned, we’ve had a great group of kids, they’re all fighters, and part of this is definitely luck, too.
“We’re still working to build the program and bring along the younger wrestlers,” he added. “It’s a snowball effect, and we’re creating that winning culture, that wrestling culture, and we’re attracting more students to the program. You know, some of these kids wouldn’t have wrestled before, and some of them we pulled out of the hallway to come join, and look at them now.”
At Tamanawis, work will continue on building the female wrestling team.
“We had just one female this year,” Sahota lamented, “and in the past we’ve had up to four. But the lack of training partners is an issue, because they’re understandably reluctant to train with the guys. Even this one female, we were scared of losing her because she didn’t have a training partner. We’re looking at having a female mentor come in and help build the female side of things.”
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