For a small town, Cranbrook has certainly produced a lot of world-class athletes.
While Stanley Cups and Olympic hockey gold medals may always garner the most attention, local fighter Tyson Hirscher put the town on the Muay Thai map over the weekend.
Competing at the Canada Muay Thai Nationals in Toronto, Ontario, the 21-year-old won a gold medal in the 91 kg ‘B’ class on Sunday, November 12.
While Hirscher had a competitive fight with Paul Woodward of the Total Martial Arts Center in Timmins, Ontario, he proved to be the stronger and quicker fighter in his victory.
“It was a great accomplishment,” Hirscher told the Townsman on Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve been doing it for seven years and you always try to set a goal, so to reach it feels pretty good.”
As a 2014 youth world champion in kickboxing, Hirscher transitioned into the Thai combat sport — which is a similar stand-up striking competition — years ago, but Sunday’s bout was his first fight in two years.
“I wasn’t sure whether I was going to have what they call ‘ring rust’,” he said. “My opponent was pretty muscular, so I knew he would be strong [so] I stuck to my game plan and kept my distance, took my shots and tried to really frustrate him.”
According to his coach at the local Rocky Mountain Martial Arts Club, Joel Huncar, the focus was to stay away from ‘brawling’.
“I wasn’t able to be with him [in Toronto] so his dad cornered him and [I] could hear him yelling ‘get out’, ‘stay out’ [and] ‘keep your distance’,” Huncar said. “Tyson was taller than his opponent and didn’t brawl, just stayed in long enough to deliver hits, punches and kicks.”
Huncar said that the key to his success was Hirscher’s control of the ring and his hard work.
“He is definitely a dedicated kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter,” he said. “He fights with a lot of heart.”
Despite a busy schedule as a shift-worker at a local mine, Hirscher maintained a strict and exhaustive training schedule in the three months leading up to the big fight.
“It was pretty hard to be active [at work] so every day when I was back home, I would train,” Hirscher said. “I did as much as I could.”
According to Huncar, the fighter was a constant presence at the gym when he was not busy with his job requirements.
“We did a lot of pad work, bag work and sparring,” he said. “Every day [he had] off, he was getting work in… I pushed him quite a bit, doing stuff like throwing him in the ‘shark tank’, where he doesn’t get a rest and everyone else comes in fresh, every two minutes, and he fights multiple rounds.”
As the only competitor in the entire event from B.C., Hirscher feels that he brought pride to his entire province and especially his hometown with his Nationals gold medal.
“A lot of times, bigger cities have better facilities and more people to train with,” he said. “It proves that even coming from a small town, anything can be done.”
With the gold medal, Hirscher will now be advancing to the ‘A’ class and while he is eligible to participate in the World Muay Thai Championships in Thailand, he has decided not to pursue international competition until at least one more national championship.
“I’d like to get some more contests and change up my diet [first],” he said. “I want to keep training and try to get a fight in spring, before another National tournament in November.”
Having trained him for almost a decade, the success and potential future for Hirscher has meant a lot to Huncar and the entire Rocky Mountain Martial Arts Club.
“He’s one of the kindest people [that I’ve ever met],” Huncar said of Hirscher. “If you see him with the kids, helping teach them, he is [such] a kind-hearted, playful human being.”
The next action for Rocky Mountain Martial Arts is an out-of-town tournament on November 25, with a group of their younger members.