For the past three years, the PGSS Polars finished second to the Nechako Valley Vikings in the team standings of the north central zone high school wrestling championships.
Finally, the Polars powered to gold.
Zones were held Saturday at PGSS and the success of the Polar wrestlers earned them 46 points, 13 more than the Vikings and D.P. Todd Trojans, who tied for second place with 33. Individually, PGSS grapplers Jag Sandhu (60-kilogram division) and Kent Chiou (57kg) picked up the maximum 10 points each for claiming titles in their respective weight classes -- the points awarded to them because they won in divisions that featured more than six athletes. Rafik Bashara of the Polars, who competed in the 84kg category, also won his division and added significantly to the PGSS point total. Sandhu and Chiou are in their graduating years and Bashara is a Grade 11 student.
Polars coach Louie Van Grootel was justifiably proud of his troops.
"[The team championship] means a lot because these guys give up a lot of their time, week in and week out," Van Grootel said. "To see it pay off for the team and these kids means a lot to the program and to the school."
Sandhu had a spotless 3-0 record at zones. On the way to gold, he defeated Adam Sutherland of Williams Lake secondary, Jason Yee of Nechako Valley and Conlan Sprickerhoff of Columneetza secondary. The win against Sprickerhoff gave Sandhu the title.
"At first I was kind of nervous because I saw his [previous] match and he was pretty good," Sandhu said of his bout with Sprickerhoff. "But he only got two points on me the whole match. The first round I kind of dominated him. The second round I got tired but I still got five points and won."
Chiou, meanwhile, beat Correlieu's James Entzminger in the 57kg final. Kelly Road wrestler Cody Furnell took third place and he was followed by PGSS grapplers Jaden Michalchuk, Kaiden Snider and Logan Schell.
Bashara emerged victorious in the 84kg final against Ian Walker of Westside Academy.
The zone meet was also a successful one for D.P. Todd wrestler Eric Halsall, who won both of his matches in the 70kg division. After an opening-round bye, Halsall defeated Jonathan Ardell of Westside and then got a good test from Brian Madougall of North Peace secondary but pulled out the victory.
"That one was tougher," Halsall said of the bout with Madougall.
Other local winners at zones were Braiden Van Grootel (48kg, Duchess Park), Garrett Caron (63kg, D.P. Todd) and Cameron Smith (110kg, D.P. Todd).
Sandhu, Chiou, Bashara, Halsall, Braiden Van Grootel, Caron and Smith will now be part of a local contingent that will compete at the provincial championships, Feb. 28 to March 2 in Duncan.
In girls competition at the north central zones, North Peace claimed the team championship with 18 points. Kelly Road (12) placed second and Nechako Valley (nine) took third.
Individually, Megan Beaupre of Kelly Road fought to gold in the 47kg weight class.
Most outstanding wrestler awards went to Jonah Rienke (74kg male, Nechako Valley secondary) and Tiana Dykstra (43kg female, 100 Mile House junior secondary).