Cumberland Wrestling returns to Northumberland County Show

Northumberland teenager Jack Brown, reigning Under-18 world Cumberland Wrestling champion, explains its appeal

Action in the ring
Action in the ring

Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling has a long heritage in our region, and is enjoying a surge in popularity among young people.

So it was with great delight that Paul Barber, Hexham-based builder and Chief Steward of the Wrestling Section, announced that this year’s County Show has been selected to host the Under-18 World Championship.

Paul explained, “We are over the moon that the Board of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling have awarded us this prestigious competition.

“We’ve been working towards this for several years, and it’s a big coup for us. We are expecting more than 20 youngsters to enter, coming from as far away as the South Lakes, north Northumberland, and even from abroad.

“We also have competitions for under-11s, under-15s, under-11, 12 and 13 stones, and All Weights. And we welcome any members of the public to have a go too!”

Last year’s Under-18 World Champion is Jack Brown, from Haydon Bridge. Although too old to compete in the competition in 2014, he will be fighting to win the Men’s under 11-stone and 12-stone Championships, sponsored by Carrs Billington.

Jack has been wrestling since he was a boy and said: “I got involved when I was only 10. I saw wrestling at a country show and decided to try it.

“Being tall I found I could use my legs to advantage; I won the World Championship for under-15s when I was only 14 and I’ve gone from strength to strength since then.”

Jack puts his success down to the coaching he’s received at the Carlisle Academy for Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling.

“About 30 or 40 youngsters attend every Wednesday night in the winter. Without them, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done. “

Jack is a regular volunteer at the County Show, and this year will be helping out in the Equine Section from early in the morning until the wrestling competitions start at 1pm.

His dedication has been rewarded by Tynedale Agricultural Society – his application for an academic bursary from the County Show’s charitable funds was granted last year, and he has recently completed his studies at Oatridge College near Edinburgh.

He is now looking forward to being an apprentice farrier in Peebles, and expressed his gratitude to the show’s committee for their assistance: “Without the funding scheme offered by Tynedale Agricultural Society I could never have had these opportunities.

“In fact, I may still have still been waiting to start my course at Oatridge.”

Cumberland Wrestling, as it is commonly known, has been popular for centuries. Its origins are uncertain, but many think the sport was brought to this country by Viking invaders. And it doesn’t just appeal to us Northerners.

Peter Hunter, who shares responsibility for the Wrestling Section at the County Show and is a past world champion, said: “Variations of the sport are very popular in Scotland, Cornwall, France and Iceland, as well as other countries around the world.

“At the Annual Grasmere Sports and Show in August there is always a big French contingent. They’re identifiable by their knee-length shorts, in contrast to British wrestlers who wear the traditional long johns, embroidered vests and velvet centrepiece or trunks.”

Peter’s achievements in the world of wrestling are admired throughout the world. His colleague, Paul Barber, said: “He is an absolute legend. He’s won countless world championships over and over again. It’s an honour to work with him.”

The rules of Cumberland Wrestling are straightforward. The two competitors adopt the opening stance with their hands locked behind their opponent’s back. The aim is to unbalance the opponent using a variety of moves and throws to create a fall. If any part of the body, apart from the feet, touches the ground, that competitor loses.

Wrestlers can also win if their opponent loses their grip, while they maintain theirs.

The match is decided by the best of three falls, and a knockout tournament decides on the champion.

Jack said: “You learn more from getting beaten than when you win all the time! To be successful, you have to get used to a few knocks.”

There are now five academies across Cumbria and Northumberland, where men, women, boys and girls alike are honing their skills in this historic sport.

Wrestling can be seen at numerous country shows and fairs throughout the summer including at this year’s Northumberland County Show on Bank Holiday Monday at Bywell, near Stocksfield.

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