Filipinos hit paydirt in SEA wrestling
The future looks bright for Philippine wrestling if the results of the recent 11th Southeast Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Rayong City, Thailand, are an indication as Alan Arcilla bagged the 45-kilogram gold in the 17-under freestyle and Kai Guingona took top honors in the 60-kilogram 20-under beach competition.
Aside from the twin golds, Anthony Arcilla settled for the silver in the 57-kilogram 20-under freestyle while Guingona added silvers in the 60-kilogram 20-under Greco-Roman and 61-kilogram 20-under freestyle divisions. The three wrestlers were accompanied to Thailand by coach Michael Baletin and Wrestling Association of the Philippines director of operations Mike Guingona.
The junior division is 20-under while the cadet division is 17-under. Wrestlers from Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Chinese-Taipei, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines participated in the April 2-8 event staged by the Thai Wrestling Association under the Sports Authority of Thailand. Vietnam had the largest delegation with 84 athletes and four Russian coaches. The Philippines had only three entries but each had at least one podium finish with no less than a silver.
Alan Arcilla, 15, has been in the national pool since 2017 and will compete in the Asian cadet qualifiers for the Youth Olympics in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on May 9-13. The Youth Olympics will be held in Buenos Aires on Oct. 6-18. Anthony Arcilla and Guingona, both 18, are being groomed to join the senior team for the SEA Games here late next year.
Alan beat two Thais and a Vietnamese for the 45-kilogram cadet gold in Thailand. Kai defeated a Singaporean, Thai, another Thai by injury default and a Vietnamese for the gold in the 60-kilogram junior beach class. He lost to Vietnamese wrestlers in the finals of the 60-kilogram Greco-Roman junior and 61-kilogram freestyle events.
“Vietnam has full government support,” said Mike Guingona. “Indonesia concentrated on cadets while Laos and Chinese-Taipei focused on the heavier weight classes. The success of the Vietnamese program is attributable to a number of factors, primarily, they have invested in their youth by supporting their development through regional and international competitions. They have also been able to acquire skills through the hiring of Russian resident coaches who live in Vietnam and learn to communicate with and understand their Vietnamese players.”
Guingona said youth development is lacking in the Philippines. “There is no support for youth wrestling,” he said. “Without that support, the team lacks a true feeder program. The youth program feeds the senior national team with skilled and experienced wrestlers. In the past, the Philippines’ strategy for success has been to send its best players abroad to get training. Unfortunately, the only ones who benefit are those who are already on the team. It doesn’t create opportunity for others to improve. What we need is a coordinated effort of grassroots development.”