Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Maroon wrestlers to fight in Canada

Published:Saturday | January 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
PHOTO BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS Coach Kevin Wallen instructs wrestlers Kerry Richards and Alwin Grant in a practice session recently at Charles Town, Portland. Richards and Grant are part of a wrestling team to tour Canada this month.


JAMAICA'S MAROONS are well-known as the first successful freedom-fighters in the Western Hemisphere. Their victory over the British predated the American war of independence and the Haitian Revolution. Yet, the fighting spirit of the ancestors is still alive within the descendants. And, some of these descendants are now engaged in a different type of fight, wrestling.

Since last August, the Jamaica Wrestling Federation has set up a wrestling camp in the Maroon community of Charles Town, Portland. Maroon wrestlers from Scotts Hall in St Mary, and Moore Town, also in Portland, are now participating in the camp. From this camp, 10 wrestlers have been selected to participate in two tournaments in Canada, this month.

On the 17th, some of the wrestlers will fight at the Guelph Opening at Guelph University in Ontario. This is the more challenging of the events, as wrestlers from across the world are involved. The other series of duel will be on the 24th at the University of London, Ontario. The team leaves next Wednesday, and returns on January 25.

It is not the first time a group from Charles Town will visit Canada. A few years ago, the drummers and dancers went on a cultural exposÈ. Yet, the wrestling tour is the most historic to date. It is the first time in Jamaica's history that a group of wrestlers representing indigenous communities will be competing as a team in international wrestling tournaments.

Kevin Wallen, president of the Jamaica Wrestling Federation and the main coach at Charles Town, said the tour came out of a visit he made to a tournament in Canada last year. He said he networked and "made great connections". He informed those connections that he would perhaps return this year with some fighters, and he's doing just that.

But, it's a team of young and inexperienced wrestlers that he is taking abroad. So, what is he expecting of them? "My expectations are that they will see wrestling, and they will see it on a high level that would change the way that they treat the sport when they get back home," Wallen told Rural Xpress last weekend.

Wallen would love to come back with some victories. "But more than anything else, what it is that I want to come back with is a group of leaders." He's hoping that by the end of next summer, some of the current trainees will be coaching new wrestlers. Also from this experience, he would like to see the beginning of an exchange of young wrestlers between Canada and Jamaica.


wealth of experience


Assisting Wallen with the preparation of the wrestlers is retired wrestler, Jamaican-born, Canada resident Wayne Smythe. Wallen told Rural Xpress that Smythe has brought a wealth of experience to the camp, and is here to help to develop wrestling in Jamaica. He thinks the campers have raw talent, but his solid advice to them would be: "Rely on the training. Remember what you have been taught."

Also, Smythe said that the wrestlers have a keen interest in the sport, devotion, and discipline, and they are having fun. As it relates to the tour, he said they should continue having fun. At this juncture, Smythe said, he would not focus on victories as they are already champions to him. A reassessment of their performance at the tournaments, however, would be carried out. And while all the wrestlers seem promising with their raw talent, both Wallen and Smythe said there are stand-outs.

For Wallen, they are young Greg Wright and Ackeme 'Crocs' Powell, and Delano 'Padam' Douglas, a Maroon drummer, who told Rural Xpress that wrestling "get mi deeper back into our culture". He said his expectations for the Canada tournaments are high, knowing that he's getting the proper training, and he's doing his best and expecting the best from everybody.

Among the team are two females, Kerry Bryan and Cashaine Richards. Their prospects are great, coach Wallen said. "They are strong enough, aggressive enough, and courageous enough." Bryan said she expects to win because of the training she is getting. She is also interested in coaching. Like Bryan, Richards is "going with the intention of winning".