Taking his rightful place on the mat

Burnaby NOW high school athlete of the year will be continuing his wrestling career at Simon Fraser University

The Burnaby NOW high school athlete of the year will be flying solo from now on.

Darthe Capellan, the B.C. high school and Pan American lightweight wrestling champion is embarking on a post-secondary career at Simon Fraser University this fall with an objective of being one of the best small men on the mat in the world.

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All Capellan’s success comes after helping lead St. Thomas More Collegiate to a program-first sweep at the B.C. high school wrestling championships last season, where the Knights swept both boys’ and girls’ aggregate titles en route to their first-ever overall provincial banner.

But accepting a scholarship at SFU meant also giving up his love of football.

“I like the aggressiveness of football. I guess I like the hitting and just being active is a good thing,” he said. “I always wanted to be part of the play and not just watching.”

In his senior year with the varsity Knights, Capellan had 23 tackles and two quarterback sacks from his cornerback position and averaged more than five yards per rush when subbed in on the offensive side of the ball.

But it is on a wrestling mat where Capellan really shines

“I’m gonna miss football. It was a good team. We bonded for four years,” he said. “But I was happy being noticed for my achievements in (wrestling), it advertises the sport of wrestling that not many people watch compared to football and basketball.”

Capellan recently returned from Croatia where he placed 13th overall at the junior world wrestling championships.

The St. Thomas More Collegiate senior was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the men’s 55-kilogram division, following a narrow 15-14 decision to eventual fifth-place-finisher Puntsag Erdenebileg of Mongolia.

“I wasn’t sure if I was at that level yet. But I know now I can keep up – maybe I need a couple of years – maybe next year I’ll be top six and the next year after that a medal,” Capellan said.

For years, Capellan wondered if he was even cut out for greatness in the grappling arts.

He wrestled in the shadow of another excellent south Burnaby product, Melvin Arciaga, who is the reigning Canada West men’s wrestling champion at 54kg and currently attending the University of Alberta on scholarship.

“I wanted to get better and at the same time I was thinking of quitting,” said Capellan, thinking back to his Grade 9 year. “I wasn’t doing that well at the time. ... Training was hard, I wasn’t used to it. But I was determined to try and get better, and my coaches maybe they saw something (in me).”

With their encouragement, Capellan made the final of the B.C. high school championships the following year, beating a past national champion along the way after not even placing at the zone level the year before.

At their insistence, he joined the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club and became a training partner with Arciaga.

The following year, Capellan won a second straight silver medal at the B.C.’s, while also avenging that loss in the final with a gold medal at the ensuing nationals.

“I was very happy. It showed me that hard work gets rewarded,” Capellan said. “It also helped my confidence and it showed me what I wanted to do.”

When Capellan entered his senior high school year, the die was cast.

He started his wrestling season, defeating his south Burnaby nemesis to win the Golden Bear Open in Edmonton.

“It was a test for me. … It showed me I had passed (Arciaga) and I was on his level. I just wanted to believe in myself that I could win,” Capellan said.

With his new-found confidence, Capellan marched through the B.C. championships and added a second national junior men’s title belt to his mantle, outpointing the Canadian Interuniversity Sports national champion Sam Jagas in the 55kg final.

The only blemish on an otherwise exemplary season was a bronze-medal finish at the juvenile men’s nationals.

Choosing to step up a weight class to 58kg rather than cut weight, Capellan was stopped in the championship round on a fall by a wrestler from Prince Edward Island, but recovered to win a bronze medal in convincing fashion.

On his road back to a medal, Capellan beat a B.C. wrestler 10-0 who had earlier teched the PEI grappler he had lost to by the same identical score.

“I should have beaten him,” Capellan added.


Burnaby NOW athlete of the year shortlist:

Malcolm Lee – STM – All-province AAA high school all-purpose all-star back in football; fourth in rushing 1,044 yards – to University of Nevada Reno on scholarship

Parker Ellis – Central – Silver medal at B.C. high school AAA boys’ soccer championships; Golden Boot winner with eight goals and provincial tournament MVP, also won MVP for EDC FC Burnaby under-21 soccer team – to Simon Fraser University

Jasmine Manhas – South – Midget AAA hockey, basketball to B.C. high school AAA girls’ provincials; team high scorer in B.C. high school all-star game, soccer – to Langara College

Briannah Tsang –  Central – Canadian senior national gymnastics – athletic scholarship to Penn State University

Reese Morris – STM – Provincial high school AAA basketball champions; MVP B.C. AAA boys’ basketball championships – to Capilano University

Jerome Cross – Moscrop – First-time B.C. high school varsity Tier II football champions, club volleyball – to Trinity Western University

Megan Ho – STM – Volleyball to AA provincials, basketball to AA provincials

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