Fight­ing her way to the top of wrestling

Hamilton Press - - CONVERSATIONS - REXINE HAWES

How much can you tell about a per­son by just meet­ing them?

Most peo­ple who meet Michelle Mon­tague for the first time would have no idea her ul­ti­mate goal is to be­come a pro­fes­sional Mixed Mar­tial Arts (MMA) fighter.

That’s the 23-year-old Hamil­ton Hawks Wrestling team mem­ber’s long-term goal. But for now she is fo­cus­ing on wrestling, just one as­pect of Mixed Mar­tial Arts.

Re­cently she was named in the New Zealand wrestling team to com­pete in the Ocea­nia Champs, Tahiti in March.

Mon­tague’s in­tro­duc­tion to wrestling came at Core MMA Gym in Hamil­ton a few years ago.

‘‘I did ev­ery sin­gle class, one was a wrestling class, I didn’t know what it was like as a sport on its own, but I liked it. For me it was a smaller ver­sion of rugby, which I was play­ing at the time.’’

A wrestling coach in­vited her to a train­ing camp, which in­cluded peo­ple in­volved with MMA, judo and jiu-jitsu and plenty of wrestlers.

She quickly re­alised what to ex­pect from the sport.

‘‘They saw this girl who was big­ger than the rest, so they put me with these boys and I got smashed.

‘‘And all I was try­ing to do was de­fend the whole time. You can be as ath­letic as you can but if you don’t know how to wres­tle, they can use it against you.

‘‘It was re­ally a way to see the level the oth­ers are at and the high per­for­mance side of the sport.’’

Mon­tague has fo­cused on wrestling train­ing, par­tic­i­pat­ing in tour­na­ments and has qual­i­fied for the Ocea­nia Champs.

Com­peti­tors who make the top two in the Ocea­nia fi­nals qual­ify for the Com­mon­wealth Champs, from which the top six will go to the Com­mon­wealth Games.

She is one of 30 rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand in Tahiti.

‘‘I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting my jer­sey with the fern and ev­ery­one know­ing we are there to rep­re­sent NZ.

‘‘It’s a cool jour­ney but for me it’s about fo­cus­ing on hav­ing a good leg and be­ing ready for March.’’

While oth­ers may not un­der­stand Mon­tague’s love for the sport, for friends and fam­ily, it’s sim­ply part of who she is.

New Zealand wrestling is not funded, so is rais­ing money to travel and com­pete. To do­nate, visit: www.givealit­tle.co.nz/ cause/mon­ty­wrestling

Michelle Mon­tague is ready for the Ocea­nia Champs in Tahiti.

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