One Surrey school wrestling team has become a provincial powerhouse with the help of brothers who returned to coach student-athletes there, at Tamanawis Secondary.
The Newton high school’s male team has won three straight B.C. banners in wrestling, including another championship earned during a tournment held Feb. 24-26 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
Five Tamanawis Wildcats earned medals, including Rohit Bal, Baltej Mundi, Karanjot Dhillon, Arjun Mandher and Manjot Sangha, helping the team narrowly edge Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat for the provincial title, 75 points to 74. Nine of the Surrey team’s wrestlers placed top-six in the tournament.
Meantime, Queen Elizabeth Secondary’s team placed fourth in the male competition, with 32 points, and Enver Creek’s female wrestlers placed second behind Maple Ridge.
The Tamanawis team’s community coaches are brothers Jessy Sahota and Paul (“Pola”) Sahota, along with Shaan Randhawa and others.
“Tamanwas has never won a provincial title in anything before, and this is the third year the boys have won provincials,” beamed Jessy.
“We’re very proud,” he added. “This has become a very competitive team, one of the top-ranked teams in the country. What started out as a recreational, fun program for kids in this neighbourhood, after school, has become a very high-level wrestling program. We’re proud not only of our kids who wrestled this year but also our previous alumni who have come back to coach here.”
Wildcats pride: Surrey's Tamanawis male wrestling team has won 3 straight B.C. banners with coaching help of returning Sahota brothers, once the only members of school team. No longer the case!
STORY: https://t.co/N8eeTzchPY@Tamanawis @Surrey_Schools #SurreyBC @SSSAA_SD36 pic.twitter.com/w89eio8Xu3
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) March 8, 2022
Now a Delta Police officer, Jessy graduated from the school in 2010, three years before Pola, in 2013.
Back then, the brothers were the only members of the Tamanawis wrestling team, which got going again about seven years ago with a growing number of student-athletes involved.
“Now we 50 or 60 kids, and we just started a new team at North Delta,” reported Jessy.
“We live just two blocks from here, down the road, so it was kind of like our dream to come back and coach this team,” he added. “This happened sooner than we anticipated, and there are some tough kids in this neighbourhood, and they became very good very fast.”
Circa 2015, the Sahota brothers saw potential wrestlers at Tamanawis, “but more than that, we saw a need,” Jessy said.
“Kids had a lot of idle time and were looking for something to fill that gap,” he recalled. “When we opened the doors, we had a lot of kids show up with no athletic experience at all, they just wanted to do something and be part of something. They were tough, they were gritty, and they kept showing up.”
Along the way, they got backing and financial support from Yo Bro/Yo Girl Youth Initiative, whose executive director, Joe Calendino, helps empower at-risk youth with tools to avoid the perils of drugs, gangs, crime and violence, as the organization’s website declares.
“Pola was in my program going back 12 years ago, and our mandate is to give kids an opportunity to strive and thrive, and a lot of my staff members are youth who’ve been through the program,” Calendino noted. “Pola created his own journey with his brother Jessy, and he did have some involvement with Yo Bro Yo Girl when he was back in high school, right here, and Jessy became an amazing police officer with Delta Police. Pola has continued on with Yo Bro Yo Girl and has created his own legacy.
“He came to me, once upon a time, and wanted to start a wrestling program, and I said, ‘Well, they haven’t had a program like that since you and your brother left.’ And he was like, ‘Just give me a chance.’ So we helped fund it and helped get it going.”
Meantime, Newton-area wrestling clubs also helped guide the Tamanawis athletes to recent wrestling successes.
“We are just a piece of the puzzle,” Calendino emphasized. “Those clubs are the heroes in the community, and guys like Jessy and Pola, they are giving up their weekends and long hours of the day, giving back and helping these young wrestlers. They coach them but also have conversations with the kids and make sure they’re making safe, healthy choices.”
This year the Tamanawis team captain is Baltej Mundi, who placed first in the 110kg division at provincials, giving him two such titles since 2019, in different weight classes.
On Monday (March 7), Mundi and other proud wrestling team members posed for photos with recent banners and trophies in the school gym.
“I’ve been wrestling since Grade 5, so that’s seven years, in community clubs to start, and I’ve been wrestling here since Grade 8,” explained Mundi, now in Grade 12.
“I’m still thinking about what I want to do next year but 100 per cent, my goal is to have an international medal – world championships and Olympics, you know,” added the 18-year-old. “I want to go hard and continue because I’ve done it my whole life – no point stopping now.”
Team members are now preparing for national championships in Calgary, Jessy noted.
“It’s a good group of kids, and it was close this year,” the coach said. “They knew the title was on the line so they competed hard. We’re proud of the boys, and it’s become a family-type deal, very enjoyable and fun.”