One of the greatest wrestlers in the history of Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School and McMaster University recently wrestled with a personal decision — whether or not to allow his daughter to compete in the sport.
But Paul Bellavia ultimately gave the thumbs up to his 15-year-old, Amy. And Thursday (Feb. 20), at the new BR gym, she won the girls’ 51-kilogram division at the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference high school wrestling championships.
One hundred and forty-five competitors from 11 schools in Hamilton-Wentworth and Halton took part in the annual event. The top two finishers from each weight class advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament March 4-6 at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre.
Amy is a student at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School. However, since Tonnos does not have a wrestling program, she trains at McMaster University with their varsity team.
“Amy is in Grade 10,” Bellavia said during the GHAC meet. “She had no interest in wrestling last year. But at the beginning of this year, she said ‘let’s try it, dad.’ I tried to discourage her. It’s not an easy sport. When I wrestled, there were no girls in it. So I said, ‘are you sure? You’re doing a lot of other sports.”
Bellavia won OFSAA gold for the Celtics in 1982 and ’83 in the 64-kilogram class and then captured Canadian university gold for the national champion McMaster Marauders in 1985. He also picked up silver at the CIAU finals of 1984 and ’87 en route to being named to the McMaster Athletics Hall of Fame.
Those medallions still adorn a wall of the family’s home.
Paul was Amy’s coach at mat-side for her first-round-pin decision over Samantha Richards of Georgetown District at the GHAC tournament.
“I won (Cadet) provincials a couple of weeks ago in Sudbury, which is like crazy because this is my first year,” Amy said. “My dad never really wanted me to do wrestling in the first place, but I wanted to try. He said I could as long as I really like it. I’ve been training hard. I go to the gym every day. I’ve been on the mat five days a week.
“I like it a lot. It’s fun. I’m going to continue.”
Dad describes daughter as being tough, but technically “she has miles to go.”
“When you’re tough,” he said, “and the skill level is pretty even, the tough person in any physical sport is going to win. She’s in great shape.”
Amy also plays hockey, volleyball and runs track.
When asked by a reporter what she likes about wrestling, Amy said: “It’s intense. You always have to be on your game. The second you do something wrong, the other person will do something to you.”
Another Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association wrestler who excelled at GHAC was Marissa Welsh of Cathedral. A gold-medal winner at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., Welsh won her 41kg-class, 12-2 over Deanna Fidlin of Georgetown District, to qualify for OFSAA. Fidlin won a silver at the 2013 provincial high school finals.
“I wrestled her last year at GHAC and she beat me,” 16-year-old Welsh said. “I learned that hard work pays off. And not to give up just because you’ve had a little setback.”
William D’Alessandro of Bishop Ryan, who also won a Cadet championship in Sudbury, has advanced to OFSAA again in the 54 kg division. He was a silver medal winner at OFSAA last year in Guelph.
Bishop Ryan won the boys’ team title, while the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves took top honours in the girls’ team category.
Thirty-one athletes from Hamilton-Wentworth have qualified for OFSAA. They are as follows:
38 kg – Chris Tighe, Bishop Ryan
41 kg – Conrex Delacruz, Bishop Ryan
44 kg – Hussein DaSilva, Cathedral; Daniel Sanchez, Bishop Ryan
47.5 kg – Devon Delaharpe, Brebeuf; Mark Mayer, Brebeuf
54 kg – William D’Alessandro, Bishop Ryan
57.5 kg – Joe Martin, Brebeuf
61 kg – Todd Wong, Bishop Ryan
72 kg – Anthony Italiano, Bishop Ryan
77 kg – Wyatt Dorion, Bishop Ryan
83 kg – Scott MacLellan, Bishop Ryan
89 kg – Giordan Caruso, Bishop Ryan
95 kg – Steven Collura, Bishop Ryan
130 kg – Garrison Nichols, Bishop Ryan; Stephen Smith, Cathedral
41kg – Marissa Welsh, Cathedral
44 kg – Victoria Doan, Brebeuf; Nicole Mayer, Brebeuf
47.5 kg – Humna Wasim, Brebeuf
51 kg – Amy Bellavia, Bishop Tonnos
54 kg – Jessica Kersley, Cathedral
57.5 kg – Maddy Divinski, Bishop Ryan; Amber Tesone, Bishop Ryan
61 kg – Sandra Bay, Brebeuf
64 kg – Alize Spalding, Brebeuf; Emily McIntyre, Bishop Ryan
67.5 kg – Celine Beltrano, Cathedral
77 kg – Ryleigh Hagan, Cathedral
83 kg – Cassidy Noonan, Brebeuf
115 kg – Tiana Ewan, Cathedral.