Madison Sartain, from Bonnyville and Holly McDougall from Calgary wrestle at the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games, held in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on Feb 18, 2018. © J. Ashley Nixon
Madison Sartain was still in junior high school (grade 7) when she started wrestling with older girls at Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS). Within two years she was winning events at the University of Alberta and got the third gold medal of her short career at the Alberta Open held in Cochrane in 2017.
Courage, enthusiasm, and stamina
Her courage and enthusiasm for the sport are contagious and a foundation for her success. That also demands a rigorous training schedule, including two practices each week for an hour and a half with the BCHS Roadrunners. Her coaches, Christine Anacker, a math/science teacher and Justin Sauve, who teaches physical education and social studies, put Madison and her team through skills, as well as working on their muscle development and cardio by making them wrestle straight for three minutes and then a 30-second water break and then wrestling again just like at a tournament.
Aggression and endurance
Madison also participates in track and field to increase her endurance and plays basketball. “It helps with the aggressiveness that is needed for wrestling”, she explained. Power to weight ratio is vitally important in wrestling, a sport where you are expending huge amounts of energy just to remain in position. So paying attention to diet is needed too. “I try to eat healthy most of time and snack to keep energy while at (wrestling) meets.”, she said. Madison, who weighs in at around 64-67 kg competed in the 72 kg class at the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games held in February.
2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games
I caught up with Madison while photographing her match against Holly McDougall from Calgary. Although Madison did not win that one, her points record over the day was good and she won the silver medal in this prestigious provincial competition.
That was the first time I had a bloody nose.
It was a day of intense competition for young athletes from across Alberta who splendidly demonstrated physical strength, mental agility, control and aggression on the wrestling mats. Madison, fortunately, has not suffered any injuries in her sport so far. She did though get a bang on her face at this match that stopped the action for a short while. “That was the first time I had a bloody nose,” she explained. “I didn’t even really notice I had one until the girl I was wrestling told me.” Madison showed huge courage to overcome that trauma and put her heart on her sleeve when she came back from an emotional moment after a strong move by her heavier opponent took her breath away.
Managing the mental game
Managing the mental game of wrestling is part and parcel of this young athlete’s preparation. “I get very nervous before a match, especially when I look at my opponent and I can see how much bigger or stronger she is than me or when I hear how long she’s been wrestling with a club team.
Most of the time being nervous goes away once I get on the mat and then you just wrestle.
I end up psyching myself out and feeling like I will lose just by how she looks.” Madison’s school teachers in Bonnyville are helping her with that part of her sport as well: “My coach has been working with me on directing that feeling into succeeding on the math. I try 100 percent and give it my all. Most of the time being nervous goes away once I get on the mat and then you just wrestle.”
Wrestling is a tough sport, a great sport for female athletes and full of life’s lessons about mental and physical preparation, overcoming adversity and getting the job done.
As well as her parents and coaches, Madison looks to a role model from Bonnyville as she continues to develop in her sport. That’s Megan Fedlant, who used to compete in the same high school team, went on to the University of Alberta and competed in the Pan-American Games.
I was curious to understand what keeps Madison motivated and where she would like to go to in her favourite sport.
I like that I seem to be talented at it, it makes me feel proud…makes me feel strong and I like to win.
She talked about getting a scholarship for wrestling, attend the Western Canadians (in 2019) and make some national teams. “I like that I seem to be talented at it, it makes me feel proud…makes me feel strong and I like to win.” Seems like a strong foundation for future success in the sport of wrestling.
More photos of wrestling at the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games
Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Communications for more photographs of wrestling and other sports at the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games.