Devin McCrae’s passion for wrestling extends beyond the maroon mats in the combat room at Heritage Woods secondary school.
The 18-year-old Grade 12 student wants to study biomedical physiology because he’s fascinated by wrestling’s biomechanics, how the muscles, tendons and joints of the body work together when making a move, and how they can be exploited to score a takedown.
The sport also goes home with McCrae every day, where his older sister, Ciara, is in her fourth year wrestling at Simon Fraser University, where she recently won a bronze medal at the 2019 Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association championships in the 105 lbs weight class and was named an All-American. And his dad, Bill, coaches the wrestling team at Maple Ridge secondary school after his own career wrestling for the Clan.
Given those bloodlines, it was perhaps inevitable McCrae gravitated to the sport when he was in Grade 5, then wrestled at Moody middle school before joining Coast Wrestling Academy when he was in Grade 8.
That’s when he started getting serious about wrestling, McCrae said. Instead of practising a couple of times a week, he was in the gym five days a week, learning the techniques of offence and defence, developing strategies that could give him an edge over stronger, more experienced opponents.
He was a quick, eager study.
“I’ve always been inclined to individual sports,” McCrae said. “I like to win on my own power.”
At home, after practice, conversation at the dinner table invariably gets around to wrestling, weekends are spent travelling to meets.
“It’s just so ingrained in our lives,” McCrae said.
It’s also a great motivator.
Everything his dad has accomplished in his life somehow traces back through wrestling, including meeting his mom, who was a varsity swimmer at SFU when he was a student athlete. And as his sister got better, started winning meets, including three B.C. high school championships, scholarship offers came her way.
“It’s given me a broad perspective in seeing where I can go and what I can accomplish with wrestling,” McCrae said.
This year, results have followed McCrae’s desire. Last Friday he won his third Lower Fraser Valley zone championship at Port Moody secondary to qualify for the provincial championships that begin Feb. 17 at the Langley Events Centre. He won the gold medal in his 63 kg weight class at the University of Calgary’s Dino Invitational tournament, then silver in the 60 kg category at the SFU Open. Many of the opponents he defeated were older, more experienced university-level wrestlers.
In December, McCrae won the 66 kg class at the War on the Floor elite tournament at Pinetree secondary. He reprised that achievement recently at the Wildcat Invitational at Burnaby Central secondary, and at the prestigious Duke’s Cup tournament that brings together many of the top high school wrestlers from across the province, McCrae lost only one match. He also brought home a top placing from the Lindbergh Invitational in Washington state, where Canadian wrestlers were competing for the first time.
“Devin has been wrestling at a higher level that is beyond your average high school wrestler,” said his coach at Heritage Woods, Allan Mah. “If you’re watching one of Devin’s matches but you turn your head away for a minute and then turn your head back, you will suddenly realize it’s over.”
Between bouts, McCrae works to keep his grade-point average up; after all, it’s not easy to get into a post-secondary health sciences program
McCrae said his academic inclinations help him in the ring. He likes to think a step ahead of his opponent, keeping an eye out for any sign of weakness or lapse in their focus, then pounce.
“I like to think I’m dynamic in my style,” he said. “You’re relying on all that time you’ve spent training and then react appropriately.”
Natural-born instinct might also have something to do with it.