Tauranga wrestlers make up half of the New Zealand team to contest the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October.

Westerly Ainsley, 16, from Bethlehem's Te Wharekura o Mauao School, and Ella Derry, 15, from Tauranga Girls' College, are joined by Arapo Kellner (Kaitaia College) and Ryan Marshall (Hamilton Boys' High School) in the squad to travel to Argentina.

The athletes were selected after winning their respective divisions at the Oceania Wrestling Championships in Guam in May, which doubled as the Youth Olympic Games qualifying tournament.

Ainsley will contest the 65kg Freestyle category and Derry the 43kg Freestyle category.


Ainsley says the Youth Olympics are the pinnacle of his wrestling career so far, with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo his major goal.

"It is a big deal, for sure. It's really about the experience. It doesn't matter if I win or lose as long as I do my best and train hard over there."

He showed some impressive form in winning his division at the Oceanias held in the sweltering heat of Guam.

"I beat two guys from Guam and one from American Samoa. I had about a kg to lose over there, so I did a 30-minute run with a jacket and jerseys on just to cut the weight and got under sweet on the weigh-in day."

Ainsley grew up wrestling from the age of 10 under the mentoring of Ross Tanner in Katikati.

"He has been really good to me, taught me a lot over the last few years. His commitment is great. He takes me to tournaments and goes the extra mile for me."

Ainsley is a flanker in the Te Wharekura o Mauao First XV but has put his rugby on hold to focus on the Youth Olympics.

"What I love about wrestling is the physical side of it. I love the contact and it makes me fit, too, for rugby," he says.

Derry is most looking forward to meeting new people from around the world and finding out how they wrestle.

"It is a massive thing going overseas by myself at 15 years old, which is pretty cool, but I will be with the team of course," she says.

"I am hoping it goes well and I get a gold or a placing but you never know how it's going to go. I have been training for ages now."

Derry got into the sport at the Mount Maunganui club through her brother when she was barely five years old.

She enjoys the tactics involved and how wrestling keeps her fit, strong and healthy.

"What I love about the sport is how much it makes you think and how different it is to the basic school sports that are offered. It really tests your mental strength," she says.

New Zealand's Olympic wrestling team coach Mark Grayling has coached her at the Mount Maunganui Wrestling Club since she started.

"At a competition he will watch you and tell you what you need to improve on and if you need help. He is just amazing," Derry says.

Mount Maunganui's Tayla Ford, who won bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, is a big influence on her.

"Her and I are quite good friends as we are female wrestlers. She has been amazing to me and always trained with me, made sure I was doing well at competitions."