Ponoka has been put on the international wrestling map by Kelsey Raab, who has just returned from Baku, Azerbaijan. She competed at the Cadet World Championships with teammates from across Canada.
This was the first competition for Raab where she competed with wrestlers from around the globe. This gave her experience into different styles of wrestling she had not seen before.
“Some of them (moves) were pretty funky, but they were effective,” explained Raab.
Fourteen girls competed for gold in the freestyle women’s 70 kg category and Raab was unsure how far forward she would be able to go.
She won her first match against a wrestler from Turkey, lost her second match to Sweden and her third match to an American wrestler and was ranked seventh.
Despite not making it to the finals, Raab appeared proud of her accomplishment. “For my first (international) competition I wasn’t even expecting to get that far.”
A world ranking of seventh for her “doesn’t even feel real.” It did however give Raab a chance to realize it was the competitor’s moves she was worried about and focused on instead of her own.
“I think that’s what happened to me in my second match,” she explained.
She plans to take lessons from the world championships and apply it to her wrestling after a short break.
“I’m taking a bit of a break from wrestling, I’ll probably take two weeks, but I’m still training. I’m still keeping in shape because that was my downfall last year after Pan Ams, I got in such good condition and then I did nothing,” she said.
Raab referred to the Pan American Cadet Championships last year where she won silver.
The flight to Baku is a story in itself as the plane lost cabin pressure somewhere between the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border. Pilots had to make an emergency landing in Winnipeg until the issue could be sorted out and the plane could fly to Toronto.
“We sat in the plane for two hours,” she stated.
This meant missing her connecting flight to London, England and also her connecting flight to Baku, but one of the coaches stayed behind and they arrived a day later than the rest.
Relief was all Raab could think of when she arrived. “I could finally focus on wrestling.”
The wrestling season starts in November when Raab plans to enter junior tournaments, which is university level wrestling as well as competing for nationals. “I want to start the season off strong.”
She feels competing at the university level will be another building block for her experience.