West Niagara’s Golden Boy
When West Niagara wrestling coach Emily Schaefer went looking to build the school’s first-ever wrestling team, she turned to the school’s junior football coach.
“I asked who on his team would be a good fit for the wrestling team and I told him that I wanted all shapes and sizes,” she said. “I told him I needed everybody because wrestling is unique in that it can be a lot of different sizes, body types and abilities.”
The coach told Schaefer Kiran Ramburn would be a good fit because he was athletic and had good awareness athletically.
“I was excited about it and when he came out with some of his friends as well, immediately I could see he was on fire,” Schaefer said. “He was excited to be there, learn new things and he was a good athlete.”
Ramburn, who recently exceeded all expectations by winning a gold medal in the 38-kilogram division at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships, was a bit confused when he was first approached by Schaefer.
“I had never heard of it before but it was something I wanted to try to keep myself active after school,” the 14-year-old Grimsby resident said.
Small in stature, although he started as a wide receiver on the school’s junior football team, he realized wrestling could be a good fit for him.
“In a lot of other sports, height matters but in this one it is definitely for someone small. You can still be very good at it.”
He liked the sport immediately.
“The first tournament was really fun and even if the practices were hard they were still fun. All the coaches were great,” he said. “I enjoy the physical aspect of it and it does help me with exercising, cardio and all that stuff.”
Leading up to OFSAA, he competed in three tournaments and won them all. His only loss at the high school level came in an exhibition match.
As the season wore on, he kept improving.
“I am a lot better with my technique and the speed of my moves. Before, it was all the same and very simple moves. Throughout the year, I got better and more complicated moves and better technique.”
He had no expectations going into OFSAA.
“It was to do the best that I can and leave it all out there.”
He won three matches to capture OFSAA gold, with his final match being the toughest.
“The final match was closest but all of them were pretty close,” Ramburn said.
The Grade 9 student won the final 14-9. He was ahead 10-9 and scored four points with one second left in the match.
It was a thrill when the gold medal was placed around his neck.
“At that moment, I felt really good. It was the fact that I had won something that big gave me a great feeling,” he said. “I knew everyone was very proud of me: My mom and my dad. My mom was very scared of all the physical contact and I know when she watching it, she was on her toes the whole time.”
His OFSAA gold has inspired him to take wrestling even more seriously.
“I am maybe going to join a club and start doing it after school so I can go to some of the other tournaments like nationals and Winter Games. I am really hoping I can do that in the summer or even during my wrestling season in high school.”
He’s not worried about peaking too early in the sport.
“I feel like I can still get better. There are a lot of aspects I can improve. I can probably get faster and improve my stamina. That is something I am going to work on in the summer. I am doing football so I hope that will help.”
There is no secret to Ramburn’s success on the mat.
“Kiran just goes after it. From the very first whistle of every match, he’s the first person to take a shot. He will fight through every position and it doesn’t matter how tired he is,” Schaefer said. “He will keep going after attacks and he’s not the kind of wrestler who will sit back waiting for something to happen. That’s why it’s probably close at the end because he gets pretty tired. It shows that he really wants it, he is excited to be there and he’s not afraid to try things.”
She felt he made continuous improvements during the year.
“One big change is the confidence that grew throughout the season. The first couple of matches, there was a lot of things going on in the corner with the coach telling him to do this and try that. As he grew throughout the season, he was doing those things on his own and making good decisions. Also it was transitioning to trying things on his own on the ground as well as being able to be a more diverse wrestler all around.”
Schaefer had a blast starting a brand new team this year. West Niagara opened in the fall of 2022 after merging three previous schools.
“It was really cool having the legacy of the Beamsville wrestling program, which folded a few years ago, and now being at the Grimsby campus, which has never had a team in the past. It was a completely new experience. The team really embraced trying a new sport and building our team throughout our first season,” she said. “There was a huge amount of growth and development for all of the kids. And having an OFSAA champion — West Niagara’s first OFSAA medal — was the cherry on top of an already incredible year.”