Brayden Ambo, 18, took ‘the long road’ finishing fourth at the 2013 Juvenile National Wrestling Championships in Saskatoon, April 4-7.
Competing in the 69 kg juvenile (17-18 year old) division, Ambo had eight matches at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse.
“I ended up losing my first match, so I had to go the consolation side the rest of the way,” said Ambo, a wrestler with the Tillsonburg-St. Thomas Ox-El Wrestling Club.
Ambo lost a tie-breaker to Sackville’s Jack Andrew after three rounds.
“I lost my first match in the third round, 4-4… he had scored a three-point, so he won.”
It wasn’t his best performance, he admitted, which made it easier to believe in a long comeback.
“I actually felt tired… wasn’t breathing… fell apart a little bit. Maybe a little bit of pressure being the nationals. It was more mental, I think, than anything. I wasn’t focused. I was wrestling flat-footed, so I wasn’t ready for stuff.
“I was a little discouraged, but I knew I could do it. I knew I could come back, it was just going to be a long road.”
He felt less pressure on the consolation side.
“I thought, the first one’s over with, just get it out of the way, and go out and wrestle my best. It went pretty good, I wrestled pretty solid until the semifinals. The focus was pretty much back – I knew what I needed to do.”
Ambo shut out Austin Bour (Lakehead) 8-0 by pin in the first round, and Juwan Burgess (Impact) 2-0 also by pin in the first round.
His next opponent, St. Thomas’ Eric Bauer, had finished fourth behind Ambo at provincials. Ambo defeated Bauer 6-2.
“He was another Ontario guy, so it felt good to perform good against him.”
Ambo’s fifth and last match Friday was a 2-0 decision over Ryan Little (Triumph).
He advanced Sunday morning with a 5-0 decision over Andrew (injured) to a consolation semifinal against Jonah Reinke (Nechako).
“My consolation semifinal went really well. I beat him 3-0 in the first round, and in the second round he scored on a hip toss. I got caught, but I was on my knee so only two points. Then I scored two points off that because I re-rolled. I scrambled behind, rolled him three times… got a mercy for that round and ended up winning (16-4).”
His opponent in the consolation final (Bronze Medal Match) was Justin Gill (Miri Piri) from Abbotsford, BC, who had two wins on the A side before losing 10-2 to eventual gold medallist Montreal’s Francis Carter, the tournament MVP. Gill won three matches on the consolation side – 10-1, 3-0, 15-0 – en route to facing Ambo.
“I warmed up good, my confidence was there,” said Ambo. “I felt focused – I felt like I was into the match.
“My setups were alright, but I wasn’t shooting. He had good timing. Whenever I’d try to set up something, he’d shoot on me. He scored two single points in the first round, so it was 2-0.
“In the second round, I knew I needed to actually shoot. My setups were better and I was moving him around. I shot, but it was a little bit sloppy and he ended up catching me. He threw me to my back for two points.
“I re-rolled right away for two points, and I had him on his back, but he bridged out. He had good defence on the ground – I couldn’t tilt him any more.”
Gill put it away with more good timing.
“He ended up shooting on me again – he shot everything at the right time. My legs kind of got laced, and he ended up folding me on my back for three, I think.”
Ambo scrambled to his stomach and prevented a turn, but they only had seven seconds left when they returned to their feet. Time ran out for Ambo, losing the round 5-2.
“I tried throwing him, but he knew it was coming.”
The 2013 Juvenile Nationals were Ambo’s second ‘Canadians.’ He also competed at the Cadet (15-16) Nationals in Windsor in 2011.
“A good learning experience,” Ambo nodded, after flying back to Tillsonburg on the 7th.
Ambo will continue training with the Ox-El Wrestling Club at Glendale HS until the end of the month. His next major wrestling competition will be the Canada Summer Games Trials in May.