Young Wrestlers of Storm-Ravaged Leyte Shine in National Wrestling Championship

By: Karlo Silverio L. Sevilla III

Led by 11-year-old gold medallist Ronnel Nerza, all seven entries of the Leyte Sports Academy bagged at least a medal each in the 2013 Buno National Wrestling Championship held from December 20 to 21 at the New Era University Gymnasium in Quezon City.

Aside from the Nerza, his winning teammates from Leyte province-which suffered thousands of fatalities and billions of pesos worth of damaged properties and infrastructure from Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan-include silver medallist John Michael Saldaña and bronze medallists Andrea Rowella Abrea, Angela Alferez, Francisco Arca, Jessie Kiamco, and Kenneth John Bais. They all participated in the age categories for 16-and-under, of their respective events and weight divisions, in the country's biggest and most competitive wrestling competition.

Displaced by the strongest and most devastating typhoon ever to hit the country, the athletes from the Leyte Sports Academy are temporarily adopted by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and are currently billeted and training inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila since last November 20. Staying and taking care of them is their coach and team manager Christopher Javier.

The annual year-end national championship held by the Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP) attracts hundreds of wrestlers from the various clubs all over the country, from the youngest age category of 10-11 years old up to the senior level of 20 years old and above. This year, Taytay-Rizal emerged as overall team champion, followed by Quezon City for second place and Ifugao for third. Perennial favorite Zamboanga City was not able to join due to financial constraints, arising from the recent war that bore heavily on the city's resources-human and otherwise.

This recent staging of the nationals was sponsored by outgoing WAP President Albert Balde, distinguished member Justice Normandie Pizarro and the New Era University.

The national championship serves as scouting ground for potential recruits to the Philippine Wrestling Team, which went home without a gold medal in the recently concluded 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. Perhaps the young winning wrestlers from Leyte, who are still recovering from the calamity, will eventually win -- in the not-so-near future -- gold medals for the country in the SEA Games ... then probably in the Asian Games ... and finally in the Olympic Games.

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