One of the most accomplished Chemainus Secondary School athletes of all time and one of the two best ever from Crofton is winding down her incredible high school wrestling career.
Grade 12 student Hannah Tuplin is heading to the national high school championships in Edmonton this week along with Chemainus Secondary teammates Emily Reid and Luther Tidder for her final hurrah to compete in both Roman Greco and freestyle wrestling events.
She admits “it’s weird” thinking about the culmination of her high school wrestling experiences. But it’s not as if this will be the conclusion for her in the sport.
“I’m going to be wrestling in university,” Tuplin confirmed. “I don’t get a chance to miss it.”
Looking back on it all, “Grade 9, was OK, it’s connecting,” she recalled. “A light bulb went off.”
Since then, Tuplin’s been lights out as a dominant figure in female wrestling at her weight level through the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club. People who don’t know her well still have a hard time believing she’s a wrestler from her appearance. Tuplin doesn’t look like a brute.
But that’s the great thing about wrestling, it caters to athletes of all shapes, sizes and weights. It’s always been a misconception you needed to be big.
Tuplin is as diminutive as they come in categories ranging from 49 kilograms to 54 kg for prime competitions, but her quickness sets her apart from others. Part of that stems from also playing high level soccer, something she’s been able to continue doing throughout high school other than one year.
“I think that really helped me out a lot,” said Tuplin. “It wasn’t like a routine. It’s not the same thing every time.”
She still remembers her humble beginnings in the sport, starting from about 10 years old.
“It was kind of like a little camp for younger kids,” Tuplin noted.
She didn’t think much about it after that until going in a workshop type situation around age 11-12 that piqued the interest of Rick Johnston, a club coach at the time.
“He was really interested in my natural ability and reactions,” Tuplin pointed out. “He talked to my mom after school and was trying to convince her to let me go.”
It came down to a decision between sports at that point and “I picked wrestling because I hadn’t tried it before really,” she said.
After a year, Tuplin was able to add soccer again and really started to hit her wrestling stride. “It kept it interesting and mixed it up,” she said of the varied agenda.
Tuplin placed fourth in provincials during her Grade 9 year and it’s been onward and upward to bigger things ever since.
After Grade 9 nationals, “everyone was like you qualified for FILA Team Canada,” she indicated. “It was so overwhelming.”
Tuplin went to Fredericton, New Brunswick for trials and didn’t make it, but the experience of her second time flying and first big flight was something else.
“I was totally without my parents with people I didn’t know that well,” she explained.
The accomplishments have been extraordinary during the last three years, including the Western Canada Games with Team B.C. in Fort McMurray, Alberta. “That was a good learning experience and lots of training through the summer,” Tuplin noted.
She went to Peru for international competition her Grade 10 year following nationals. “It was definitely an eye-opener,” Tuplin said. “You don’t realize how good we have it here till you go somewhere else.”
In Grade 11, she was second at provincials and third at nationals, qualifying as the back-up person for the Canadian FILA team. Tuplin suffered a concussion at nationals that year which required a bit of a break and “it’s lightened up a lot,” she noted. “It took four months to be fully cleared.”
The Grade 12 campaign has involved less club competitions, but Tuplin still managed a long-coveted first place at the provincials in Port Alberni.
“I wasn’t at a lot of practices because I had to balance more things being in Grade 12,” she conceded. “I haven’t been as attentive to my wrestling practices, but I still went when I could.”
Tuplin’s natural talents have carried her through into the pending national tournament conclusion and caught the attention of Simon Fraser University, University of the Fraser Valley, Alberta, Regina and Lakehead wrestling programs.
“I really think the coaches will have a huge impact on my decision – the way they coach and the respect they have for their athletes,” she confided.