Matthew Vecchio is a big man on campus at Ecole Maurice Lapointe in Kanata.
That’s strange, since he’s a Grade 9 student, stands four feet, 11 inches and is lighter than an atomweight at 34 kilograms.
But it’s true and the evidence will make you smile.
-When the weather is good, he travels more than a kilometre to and from school riding a unicycle. How cool is that?
-As part of the school’s Activite Physique et Sante sport-specific program, he selected volleyball as his sport of focus. Despite his size, the right-side player is one of the team’s fittest players, has a strong serve and a good return. The Wolves finished first in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association junior boys’ Tier 2 west division at 10-0. In the playoffs, they advanced to the semifinals with two wins.
-But the premier reason for being high-fived in the hallways is the humble and soft-spoken Vecchio won the four-year-old school’s first-ever medal, bronze, at any OFSAA provincial high school championship. And he did it against all odds. Weighing a mere 34 kilograms in the 38-kilogram division and being the youngest in the field at 14 against wrestlers with up to four years more experience, he is believed to be the first Grade 9 student from Ottawa to win a medal at the OFSAA wrestling championships, a varsity competition based on weight and not age.
“I have kept good stats and as far as I can tell this (an Ottawa Grade 9 wrestler winning an OFSAA medal) has never happened,” said National Capital Wrestling Club coach Dean Sherratt, a prominent figure in Ottawa wrestling for more than 25 years.
It has happened elsewhere in the province, including the 2016 OFSAA championships, when Grade 9 student Patrik Leder of St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga captured gold in the boys’ 47.5-kilogram class.
But Sherratt can understand why Vecchio was able to not only achieve a prized top-six finish, but also earn a medal. Javeon Samuels of Ottawa’s Lester B. Pearson also was on the podium in fifth.
“To be frank, everything came together, the stars were all aligned at once. That’s what happened. From my perspective, he over-achieved. It’s really hard to do,” he added.
But Vecchio, a NCWC athlete for six years, surpassed his expectations because of his strength, strong work ethic, never-stop-fighting attitude, microscopic body fat and maturity. Despite facing wrestlers taller and heavier, he has the ability to confront those two challenges by adapting his wrestling style to suit each particular situation. He moves quickly, likes to shoot for the legs and “can pick the pocket of his opponent,” Sherratt said.
Vecchio, who lost only one high-school match in six Ottawa tournaments because he had to wrestle in the 45-kilogram class, was thrilled with his entire season.
“My goal was to make it to OFSAA and the second day (of competition),” said Vecchio, who won four of his five matches. “Getting through to third place was past what I expected. Winning the bronze medal was amazing.”
He gave credit to his overall fitness, skill develop and desire to perfect his moves. As part of the Activite Physique et Sante program, the school brings in a trainer from Greco Lean and Fit once a week to work with all of the students as part of their physical education training. Vecchio found this invaluable.
“It takes a lot out of you. Greco helps keep us going. We don’t stop,” added Vecchio, who was coached at Maurice Lapointe by teachers Carl Perreault and Philippe Massie and his father Dante, who helped initiate the school program.
Some would say Vecchio is non-stop action.
“I like the grappling, learning new moves and competing,” he said. “Competing is a big part for me, competing against people I haven’t seen before helps to make me better.”
Maurice Lapointe athletic director Daniel Bottiglia was equally surprised and not surprised Vecchio became the school’s first OFSAA medallist.He knew Vecchio was wrestling heavier and older opponents and the school only had a small team of four wrestlers. But he also knew Vecchio was a dedicated athlete with strong support and that he benefited greatly from the Activite Physique et Sante program.
“He is never late nor too tired to train. He is quite focused and determined to succeed — a quality that is difficult to teach,” Bottiglia explained in an email. “For Matthew, this quality comes from within.
“I believe it (winning school’s first medal) will definitely inspire other students to dream big as well as undertake and commit to the necessary training and preparation to succeed.”
While Vecchio wanted to become a wrestler like his five cousins, his parents had another equally important reason.
“We found he had to stand up for himself a lot,” Dante said. “We didn’t want him to punch, but with wrestling he could grapple to defend himself and not get into trouble. By doing that, a lot of the problems went away.”
Today, Vecchio stands tall, even if he still has to look up to everyone in the Ecole Maurice Lapointe hallways.
CAPITAL SPORTS HUBTOP RIDER
Ottawa’s premier cyclist Michael Woods had a sensational month of April in four UCI World Tour tests and was Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team’s top rider on three occasions. After placing second in the Gran Premio Migual Indurain and 12th in the six-day Vuelta al Pais Vasco in Spain, Woods headed to Belgium, where he was 11th in the La Fleche Wallonne and a gritty ninth in the 103rd Liege-Bastogne-Liege (cycling’s oldest one-day race) in six hours, 24 minutes, 27 seconds. “I think the big win is coming,” Woods predicted.
The weather was ideal as 30,074 runners participated in the recent Boston Marathon, including a healthy delegation from Ottawa and area. Here are the top five men and women from this area: Men — Rejean Chiasson, 71st overall, two hours, 31 minutes, 57 seconds; Stephen Chapman, 634th, 2:50:56; Jim Fullarton, 1,109th, 2:57:18; Corey Wilson, 1,325th, 2:59:01; and Mitch Wilson, 1,399th, 2:59:34; women — Claudine Soucie, 246th woman, 3:09:20; Suniko Soda, 310th, 3:11:54; Judy Andrew Piel, 650th, 3:20:01; Gia Rinaldi, 687th, 3:20:33; and Nicole Mikhael, 712th, 3:21:04.
OLDIES AND GOODIES
Ian Bishop is accustomed to winning gold on the badminton court, but being in the final year of his 65-69 age group he couldn’t make it happen last month. The R.A. Badminton Club member came close, however, with silver-medal efforts in men’s 65+ singles and doubles at the Canadian masters championships in Winnipeg, and with silver in men’s singles and bronze in mixed doubles at the World Masters Games 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. At the Canadian masters, the Cotes combined to win eight medals — Wilf, two golds in men’s 80+ and three silvers in 75+; Solanges, one gold and two silvers in women’s 75+.
What a final year for Carleton University Ravens men’s hockey player Michael McNamee of Perth. After being named captain, he led the Ravens to a tie for fourth place in the OUA East division (16-9-3), produced a team-high 33 points (135 career points over four seasons), and counted two goals and one assist in the club’s first-round playoff exit. He also was named to the U Sports all-star team to play an exhibition game against the Canadian junior men’s team and represented Canada at the FISU Winter Universiade, producing a team-best 11 points, including two assists in the bronze-medal winning game. The U Sports first-team all-star player left Carleton as the corecipient with men’s basketball player Connor Wood of the Jack Vogan Memorial Medal as the outstanding graduating male athlete. Nine days after the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs, McNamee signed an amateur tryout contract on Feb. 28 with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, the affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. He played 12 games and counted one assist. The Crunch released McNamee on April 12.
good and young
How good is University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s volleyball player Alina Dormann of Ottawa? In her freshman season, the 2015-16 OUA East player and rookie of the year and a member of the OUA first and rookie all-star teams was named to the CIS (now U Sports) second All-Canadian team. In her sophomore season, she repeated as the OUA East’s top player and was a first team all-star. But this season, she was selected to the U Sports first all-star team, which was completed by fourth- and fifth-year players. University of Montreal’s Olivier Riople of Gatineau was named to the U Sports all-rookie squad.
Russell Curling Club’s Bryan Cochrane, Ian MacAulay, Doug Johnston and Ken Sullivan powered through the world senior men’s curling championship in Lethbridge, Alta. — 6-0 to win Group C, plus quarterfinal and semifinal wins — but finished with the silver medal, losing 5-4 in an extra end on a draw to the button by defending champion Mats Wranaa of Sweden ... Ottawa’s Matteo Dal Cin of Rally Cycling won the opening stage of five-day Tour of the Gila, but finished ninth overall ... The Canadian ringette championships all-star honour roll included Nepean’s Olivia Simpson and Kira Begin, U16; Outaouais’s Emily Chenier, U19; and Waterloo’s Kelsey Youldon of Ottawa, National Ringette League.