This is the second of a three-part series profiling local athletes who have participated in
previous Ontario Winter Games
Renfrew – Grant Lavallee and Norm Bujold are two Renfrew residents who were friends and
wrestled while attending Renfrew Collegiate Institute (RCI) in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The two men were the only athletes from Renfrew County to compete in the inaugural Ontario
Winter Games held in Etobicoke in 1970.
Mr. Lavallee entered those games with an incredible 45-0 record on the wrestling mat and
suffered his only defeat that year when he came up short in the gold medal final and came home
with a silver medal.
The Ontario Winter Games was a qualifier for the Canadian National Winter Games and going
into the championship match he was unaware of the qualification process for medal winners. It
was that revelation that would lead to one of the most valuable lessons he would learn on how to
become a successful competitive wrestler.
“I learned a big lesson from that loss,” he said. “My opponent for the gold medal final was a
university student. Because it was an open competition, it allowed older and more experienced
wrestlers to participate against younger, inexperienced wrestlers. About two hours before the
match the guy I had to wrestle against came up to me and said, ‘it doesn’t matter who wins or
loses because I can’t go the Canadian Winter Games so it looks like you will be going’.
“I was so excited and said to myself, ‘I am going to the Canadian championships no matter what
happens today’. So, we went head-to-head and he eventually beat me by one point. He came up
to me afterwards and told me he was going to the Nationals. I was stunned. I knew deep down he
purposely caused me to be distracted so from that day on I learned about tactics and I never let
myself get psyched out again.”
Mr. Lavallee finished that season with a record of 60-1. Ironically, he competed against the same wrestler a year later as member of the Lakehead University wrestling team and pinned him in the first round.
“Sometimes, in life you just have to be patient and wait for an opportunity to do things
differently,” he joked.
Mr. Bujold, who was only 15 years old at the time, had a much different experience. During his
second match he suffered not just a defeat, but an injury and was forced to withdraw from the
“It is all part of the sport and you have to take some lumps and bruises,” Mr. Bujold said. “I was
just excited to be there.
“I learned how to lose and how to win and I carried that with me until I retired from wrestling in
1976,” he added.
Both men give credit to their high school coach, Rick Klinowski, who drove them to Etobicoke
and provided coaching and guidance while they attended RCI.
In 1972, Mr. Bujold captured the Canadian Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship. In 1973,
he captured the OFSAA wrestling championship and the Canadian Junior Heavyweight
Mr. Lavallee also captured OFSAA gold before moving on to wrestle at Lakehead University. In
1974, he finished 4th in the middleweight division at the Commonwealth Games in New
Zealand. He also won three bronze and a gold at the Commonwealth Games.
As a coach, he guided the Canadian team to a gold medal performance at the World Championships in Stockholm in 1995.
Wrestling Continued Post-High School
Following his graduation from RCI, Mr. Lavallee travelled to Thunder Bay and became one of
the most successful wrestlers in the history of Lakehead University while earning a Bachelor of
Education. He remained in Thunder Bay as a teacher until he returned to Renfrew in 1980 and
began a 30-year career as a resource worker with Family & Children’s Services of Renfrew
Following his high school graduation, Mr. Bujold moved to Ottawa in 1973 to attend Algonquin
College and earned a diploma in Cartography. He was only 21 when he retired from
competitive wrestling and won seven provincial championships and four national
He also returned to Renfrew and beginning in 1979, he was a mainstay in downtown Renfrew as
the owner of Noron Insulation which later became Noron Satellite Systems. He sold the business
a few years ago to concentrate on local residential developments.
Renfrew Youth Wrestling Established
For thousands of local youth who have been involved in amateur wrestling and have competed
and reached the podium both nationally and internationally, they can point to a simple fundraiser sponsored by these two men as the impetus of the most successful youth amateur wrestling programs in Canadian history.
“It was 1991 and Grant told me two kids qualified for the Canadian Wrestling Championships
but they both needed $1,500 to get out West,” Mr. Bujold said. “Grant knows all about the ins
and outs of wrestling and I can raise money, so we had a fundraiser out at the old Buxton’s place
and we raised $7,600. I told Grant that we had seed money to start a club. He loved the idea and
so began the Renfrew Amateur Wrestling Club.”
Both men knew the kids from small-town Renfrew could compete with anyone across Canada if
given the chance. They also realized it would require year-round fundraising, a solid base of
volunteers and local businesses to become sponsors to be able to send the wrestlers to all parts of
Canada to compete.
“That hard work and commitment paid off pretty darn fast,” Mr. Bujold said. “Starting in 1993,
the club captured the Canada East Wrestling Championship for 21 consecutive years. I am not
boasting, but these kids have racked up so many team and individual championships it is hard
not to lose track. We compete with large centres such as Toronto and Vancouver and were able
to return home with a Canadian national gold medal.”
“Up until 2015, our club produced 174 Ontario and national champions and I don’t think very
many clubs in Canada can boast of that,” Mr. Lavallee said. “We have been very proud to carry
the Renfrew flag when we go into tournaments and we are also very proud to give out Renfrew
Both men admit the COVID pandemic was devastating to the local club, now known as the
Renfrew Vipers. It was not unusual in its heyday to have 70 or more youth enrolled annually.
They could not give specific numbers now, but they are low.
However, they are hopeful the upcoming Winter Games can promote wrestling and get kids back
out on the mat again.
“The wrestling is being held in Pembroke and Grant and I agreed this is a chance to promote the
sport, and all the kids who came through our club,” Mr. Bujold said. “We put a call out to all our
former club members who have won national championships to come back home and award the
Gold Medals to whoever wins the finals. For a young person winning a medal and to be
presented by a former champion is a giant pat on the back for all their hard work.”
Mr. Lavallee is a NCCP Competition Development Facilitator through Sport Canada and travels
the country as a coach for wrestling coaches. He will be onsite during the Winter Games and is
looking forward to seeing some of the 2,000 youth he coached over the years.
He is helping to organize the wrestling program and Bujold Custom Homes (owned and operated by Norm Bujold) is sponsoring the tournament.
The wrestling portion of the Ontario Winter Games is being held February 10-11 at Fellowes
High School in Pembroke.