Rewards for North West Talent Project in Wigan

The North West squad.
The North West squad.

A new sporting initiative known as the North West Talent Project is being promoted in partnership with a number of national sporting governing bodies, Derry City Council and Sport NI throughout the region.

The aim is to identify and develop the best young athletes and through the application of a number of bespoke programmes there is good reason to believe that particularly within the sports of freestyle wrestling, mountaineering, judo, hockey and rugby they will have opportunities to shine.

The common objectives for all sports involved are summarized as follows: to develop a pool of coaches who can effectively manage future talent development programmes to help young performers to reach their full potential; to identify new and develop existing athletes and align participants with the current Governing Body performer pathways and finally to share best working practice as coaches, reflect upon their coaching experience and address their future development needs.

In real terms, this plays out slightly differently for each sport for example freestyle wrestling has invested heavily in the 13-20 age groups and created the North West Wrestling Squad. The Squad has successfully entered three major events in the past few weeks and collected medals at the British Junior Championships in Glasgow, the Irish Open in Dublin and at the most recent tournament, the Aspull International in Wigan.

Jim Toland, one of the senior coaches steering the group to the podium said: “I was pleasantly surprised by the overall performance in Wigan. I knew they were good since the squad included Matthew McCrossan and Ben Pollin who had placed in both the British and Irish, but as a team we finished in eighth place in a field that contained 33 other clubs including teams from Belgium.”

He added: “This is mainly due to a lot of new wrestlers stepping up to the challenge and seizing the moment.”

Members of the North West Wrestling squad now have their sights set on the Northern Ireland team and if selected they will be travelling to the prestigious Malta Open tournament in December.

Michael Cooke from Sport NI said: “This is exactly what we were hoping to achieve. Wrestling is a very energetic but safe sport, it’s entirely suitable for both males and females and I’m glad that the Northern Ireland Wrestling Association has chosen to give the North West Talent Programme such a high priority.”

Further information concerning the Olympic and Commonwealth sport of freestyle wrestling can be obtained by visiting the following websites: and