Isaiah Taylor was able to conclude his high school wrestling career on a winning note.
Taylor, a Grade 12 Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) student, captured a gold medal at the British Columbia high school wrestling championships, which concluded Feb. 26 in Abbotsford.
Taylor, whose mother is Tseshaht and father is Ahousaht, competed in the boys' 84-kilogram category. There were 25 entrants in this division.
Taylor, who turns 18 on March 17, was one of two Aboriginal athletes on the ADSS squad that captured some hardware at the provincial meet.
Brianne Charles, also a Grade 12 student, won the silver medal in the girls' 64-kilogram division, which featured 22 competitors.
Taylor, who won four bouts at the provincials, was understandably thrilled with his gold-medal performance.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "It has been my goal to win this since Grade 10."
Taylor had previously won a pair of other medals at the high school provincial championships. Both of those medals, however, when he was in grades 10 and 11, were bronze.
Despite his previous podium finishes, the fact Taylor won this year's provincial crown was considered somewhat of an upset.
"I guess I was surprised," he said. "I wasn't seeded."
Organizers had only seeded the top four competitors in each category based on their efforts in various qualifying tournaments this season.
One of the reasons Taylor, who transferred to ADSS for his final high school semester, wasn't seeded was because he had only competed in one high school wrestling meet this season prior to the provincials. He had won all four of his matches though at The Alberni Invitational, which ran from late January through early February.
Taylor then had less than a month to prepare for the B.C. championship meet.
"Going into the provincials he definitely was not in the best shape," said ADSS coach John McDonald. "The only thing he did lack was conditioning."
Though matches consist of three two-minute rounds, McDonald said the game plan for Taylor was to try and conserve energy but pounce upon opportunities when he saw them.
"He had a lot of drive and a lot of motivation," McDonald said of Taylor. "The strategy with him though was not to go out there and put the pedal to the metal."
En route to his gold medal, Taylor ended up defeating three of the seeded wrestlers in his weight class. Though his high school wrestling career is now over, Taylor, who also competes for the Alberni Valley Wrestling Club, is now gearing up for the national juvenile championships.
This meet, scheduled for April 6 to 10 will be held in Windsor, Ont.
This nationals will feature grapplers aged 17 and 18.
Taylor also competed at the 2010 Canadian juvenile tournament. He placed fourth at this event, which was held in Vancouver.
He's hoping to find himself a spot on the podium at this year's meet.
"That's my goal," said Taylor, who had won the gold medal at the 2009 national cadet (for those aged 15 and 16) tournament. "Placing (in the top three) is my goal for this tournament."
As for next year, Taylor is leaning towards attending Vancouver Island University (formerly Malaspina University-College) in Nanaimo. Instead of wrestling, however, he might opt to concentrate on playing community football.
As for Charles, 17, this marked the first time she won a medal at the high school provincial meet. She had placed fifth in her division a year ago.
And she wasn't surprised she was able to nab the silver medal in Abbotsford.
"We had been planning all year to get into the final," said Charles, who father is Hupacasath. "I trained all year to accomplish this, so I was happy with my result."
McDonald said he wasn't surprised either with Charles' finish.
"I pegged her as being a Top 3 (finisher)," he said. "She's kind of lived up to her expectations."
Though her high school wrestling days are now over, Charles is hoping to continue with the ADSS wrestling program next year.
She wants to help coach the high school team, while attending North Island College.