Pippa Bryan – Here I Come, USA!
The Canadian Female in Her Own Words
My mom had suggested I join in my first year of middle school (Grade 7) after the teacher tried three times unsuccessfully to recruit me for the wrestling team. It wasn’t until Grade 8, with the encouragement of my rugby coach, who saw wrestling as an ideal off-season sport, and my school friends, that I signed up. I immediately loved it and shortly after I started wrestling for a club, where my younger brother was training.
At the Alberta Winter Games (an important tournament), I lost a match using an offensive strategy. After the defeat, I ended up having to face that same opponent in the gold medal match. Noting that her shots were weak, I adjusted my strategy and fought defensively, allowing her to make the first move and scoring off her attempts.
My parents have always supported me in sports. Before wrestling, I did competitive dance for six years. My parents always drove me to practice, steamed my tutus, and got me to competitions. It’s the same now that I’m wrestling but the travel demands are higher. We’ve made monthly trips to compete in the US. They took me to practice on Christmas Eve and again on Boxing Day. Our family vacations have become wrestling trips. They’ve worked with my school to ensure they were on board with me training during school hours.
Every coach I’ve worked with has played a role in my development – there’s always something I can take away from a clinic or team coach, but three coaches stand out: Cory Coles – he was the first to watch me wrestle. I had less than a week of experience and he convinced me that I had the talent and capability to pursue wrestling on an elite level. Danny Coles – though he’s only 18, the fact that he is also an athlete makes him an incredible coach. He leads by example – he’s always training and repeating technique. He evaluates every one of my matches and is quick to make adjustments. He gives practical advice in a way that’s easy to understand because he is actively competing. He’s also just an amazing wrestler, so it’s a privilege to learn from him. Ivan Delchev – training at the DTA (Delchev Trained Academy) has been a huge benefit to my experience. Though there are only a few girls at the club, Delchev has the same expectations for me as he does for the guys. His training is also practical. I had very little upper body strength when I started, but it’s improved significantly with his direction.
My younger brother, Hugo (he’s 11), started wrestling first. He was already taking BJJ at the same facility, so it definitely peaked my interest in the sport. I also followed his lead when I got into BJJ years ago, only giving it up when dance took over. He regularly helps me train. Though there’s too much of a size difference for us to live wrestle, he helps me with functional training (I lunge with him on my back!). Also, my younger sister Odessa (she’s 6) makes me a better coach. I have to find ways to make wrestling fun and communicate technique in a way that makes sense to younger athletes. I’ve also been fortunate to have supportive and honest training partners. My training partner, Mika Coles, is always there to give feedback and improve my wrestling. Training partners can give insight that coaches can’t such as when/where I can apply pressure, lock tighter, and improve my position. We also share moves.
Wrestling has taught me a lot about self-discipline and time management. Because it is both an individual and team sport, it has also helped hone my leadership skills. I definitely bring that quality into the classroom and the school sports teams I play on. Wrestling trips also expand my learning outside of the classroom. My coaches always ensure there’s an educational component to our trips. Visiting landmarks, learning local history. It gives me perspective on how other people live. On my last trip to the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Denver, we visited a dairy farm for an afternoon on the way there.
There’s nothing like RMN Events in Canada. First of all, it’s the size of the event! When you consider that the population of California is bigger than the entire population of Canada, we just don’t have the numbers to get large events. There is also an element of fun and camaraderie that’s missing from other events. There are light shows, merchandise and big prizes. The events also run super smooth and efficiently, which is amazing given how many mats are going at once. My biggest personal challenge at RMN has been going up against the top-seeded wrestlers in the first round. I also enjoy meeting people. Being one of very few Canadians, it’s fun to learn about what makes our countries similar and different.
I’d love to represent Canada at the Olympics and ideally receive a full scholarship to an NCAA school. After I’m done competing, I’d like to have a career in coaching and teaching physical education and gym.
Don’t get down on the small stuff. Oftentimes, you learn more from losing than you do winning. Spend a lot of time on technique.
Wrestling has taken over my life. I now travel almost monthly for training or competition. Everything revolves around “when am I training today?” It’s challenging, but it’s worth it.
I would love to have a career in coaching. I’d love to get more Canadians down to the U.S. for RMN tournaments, as those events have been some of the best experiences I’ve had. I love wrestling folkstyle, which is something we don’t do in Canada. It’s made me a better wrestler because of the focus on takedowns. Even though I haven’t been wrestling for long, I already volunteer my time coaching the younger kids at my club twice a week. I really enjoy working with some of our special needs kids and that’s something I’d like to do more of.
Wrestling has taught me perseverance, work ethic and the ability to compete in less than ideal circumstances (after travel, sleeping away from home, meals on the go, road trips, interruptions to routine and training regimen). These are important life skills.
I only started wrestling in November 2017, but here is a list of accomplishments so far:
Information on Alavanca (formerly MMAU)
Calgary, Alberta - Canada (By Ali Bryan, Team Coordinator)
The wrestling program at Alavanca (formerly MMAU) launched in October, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Alavanca is Portuguese for “Leverage.” The facility, specializing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, quickly embraced the program. Under the direction of Cory Coles, the club employs a training regimen and program that is unique and perhaps even a little unorthodox in Canada. The student-to-coach ratio is very low, the quality of instruction high. The older athletes regularly train and mentor the younger ones, developing leadership skills and improving their technique in the process.
The club is committed to its elite athletes and supports frequent competition outside of the province and country. Rocky Mountain National tournaments have been a critical part of the club’s strategy in developing its wrestlers. The United States is a huge market with a significant number of tournaments and simply more wrestlers. Training is always functional and connected to wrestling movement patterns. No beep tests here. Opportunities to compete in different styles, such as folkstyle, have prepared our athletes for success in freestyle. Focusing on a North-South strategy led to an affiliation with the Delchev Trained Academy (DTA). With a first-rate facility and a compatible coaching philosophy, some of Alavanca’s athletes often train with Coach Ivan Delchev, representing the DTA at tournaments in the U.S.
The club has a strong focus on technique – even for recreational athletes – and an even stronger focus on the big picture. It is not rare that a match might be used strictly to focus on executing a new move, even if it means a loss. The intent is to master the move so that it can be applied for future use, adding depth to an athlete’s repertoire and increasing probability of future success.
The strategies seem to be working. Since its inception, many of the club’s athletes have gone on to win large tournaments in Canada and the U.S. Wrestler Adam Thompson recently won Gold medals in both n 80kg Freestyle and Greco Roman categories at the Canadian National Championships. In one month of wrestling, sixteen-year old Gabriel Durocher won his first high school tournament, successfully beating opponents who’d been training for several years. Pippa Bryan, a thirteen-year old, earned silver at Rocky Mountain Nationals in both middle school and high school brackets with five months of training. She also won gold at the Alberta Winter Games. And Danny Coles became the first Canadian to ever win the Rocky Mountain National Folkstyle Championships. In its first year, Alavanca produced many provincial and national champions and the number of athletes in the wrestling program has tripled since January.
Coach Cory Coles, Daniel Coles, Pippa Bryan