2018 will be a year to remember for Aleah Nickel. In the last month and a half the Swift Current native has won her first high school provincial title, a Saskatchewan Amateur Wrestling Association provincial championship, and most recently a national title and a Cadet Championship.
“I was super ecstatic,” said Nickel of winning Nationals in Edmonton on Saturday. “It felt amazing.”
“Well it is a pretty special occasion when that happens,” said her coach Curtis Biem, who noted that she was his first national champion in 18 years of coaching. “It is a big deal.”
And, the best is yet to come as her Cadet championship clinched a spot on Team Canada for the Pan Am Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala in May and the World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia in July.
Saturday, the decorated wrestler won three straight matches to claim gold in the women’s 61 kilogram division. The Swift Current native won her opening match by fall after only 2:21 over Brooke Sacobie from Black Bears Wrestling Club. Nickel added a 15-2 victory by tech fall over the Junior Dinos’ Katherine Cullerton-Koval in the semi-final.
Nickel, representing the Swift Current Titans Wrestling Club, clinched the national title with an 8-3 decision over the Pacific Rim Wrestling Club’s Jade Trolland in the gold medal match.
“I kind of started off the match a little bit slow and tried to feel out what she was like. I wrestled her last year in my bronze medal match in Cadets, so I knew she was coming back hard and I just wanted to see how she improved and wanted to be ready for anything and went from there. I quickly figured out what I was able to do and just worked on that.”
Biem said that Nickel was considered a favorite heading into the event, which may have added some pressure. “She wasn’t quite wrestling the way she normally does. I kind of talk about her being a predator out there usually, but this time she was a little bit more I guess careful and very much thinking things through and wrestling out of safe positions. It was pretty impressive for her to come out with that victory.”
Nickel’s work was far from done though as she took part in the Cadet team trials on Sunday. She rematched with Trolland and won a 3-0 decision. She met the Vipers Wrestling Club’s Savana Pinsent in the semi-final and won 10-4. Nickel took on Ontario’s Kiera Kuebeck in the championship match and won a 2-1 decision.
The Titans had three other wrestlers in action at Nationals, which were held in the University of Alberta Butterdome.
Sebastien Marchand was in U19 Men’s 71 KG action on Friday. He had a bye in the first round and then won by fall in 23 seconds over Olympia WC’s Jamal Addo. He lost 11-0 to Edmonton’s Magnus McCrackin in his next match. Marchand then lost by fall in 1:02 to the Cochrane Cowboys’ Hunter Smith to end his day. Luke Nelson wrestled in the U17 65 KG championship on Friday. He had a bye to start and then lost a 6-1 decision to Balkaran Mea of Akhara of Champions. He dropped his second match 10-0 by tech fall to Edmonton’s Declan Cayanga.
Elijah Harden took part in the U17 Men’s 71 KG Division on Friday. He won his opener by fall in 47 seconds over Edmonton’s Zachary Zalasky. He lost his next match to Guru Gobind Singh Wrestling Club’s Jeevan Gill. Harden was eliminated in a 21-14 decision to Edmonton’s Aidan Clark.
Marchand was back in action on Sunday and placed sixth in the U19 71KG Greco Championships. He opened the day with an 8-0 tech fall win over Wetaskiwin’s Kjel Gusdal. He added a 10-2 fall victory over Schewa Wrestling Club’s John Moncrief. Marchand lost to the eventual gold medalist, Gorilla Factory Wrestling Club’s August Bayliss, by fall in 1:51. He took on Moncrieff again, but lost 8-0. Nelson and Harden were both making their debut at Nationals, while Marchand was making his second appearance.
“Next year I would expect all three of those guys to go back in having a better idea of what they are getting into,” said Biem. “Hopefully over the course of the summer and next season they can start building toward having that as a goal to do well, maybe even medal. They have the talent, but there is other people out there and other guys have been coached. It is tough at Nationals every year, but they have national caliber talent. On any given day they might medal next year.”