Wrestling the issue

In the fourth of six features, the Journal’s news editor meets the Queen’s wrestling team

Two wrestlers try to get the upper hand on eachother during practise in the PEC’s combat room.
Two wrestlers try to get the upper hand on eachother during practise in the PEC’s combat room.
Journal news editor Gloria Er-Chua gets dropped by wrester Emily Peat.
Journal news editor Gloria Er-Chua gets dropped by wrester Emily Peat.
Er-Chua gets back on her feet and back at Peat.
Er-Chua gets back on her feet and back at Peat.
Er-Chua and Peat struggle for position against one another.
Er-Chua and Peat struggle for position against one another.

I’ve just knocked my grappling partner down and I’m too surprised to remember what comes next.

“Try to turn me over,” first-year varsity wrestler Emily Peat says helpfully from the ground.

We grapple a few seconds longer before Peat regains advantage and pulls me to the floor.

She holds my shoulders down and the match is over.

For those new to the sport, wrestling is about equal parts strategy and physicality.

“You have to think on your feet,” Peat said after our scrimmage, adding that I may have unknowingly scored a point for one of my moves.

Wrestling, at its most basic, is pinning a person on his or her back and holding them there for at least one second to win a match.

In a varsity competition, a match is generally three rounds. Wrestlers can score up to six points per round for taking opponents down, rolling them on their backs, pushing them out of bounds or for a near-pin.

Queen’s wrestling club includes both varsity and recreational athletes. There are more than 20 varsity athletes this year.

During their competitive season, which runs from October to March, there are tournaments nearly every weekend.

There’s a daily two-hour practice, including one on Saturday morning. The men’s and women’s teams practice together.

After a warm-up with heavy cardio, the athletes scrimmage with a partner to practice new techniques and drill old ones. At this point, wrestlers are exerting in the 30 to 40 per cent range, assistant coach Justin Irwin said.

“It’s for fine tuning.”

Later in the practice, wrestlers learn new techniques they have some time to practice.

Practice generally ends with a full scrimmage, which mimics a real competition situation, Irwin said.

Fourth-year wrestler Daniel Kiniry said wrestlers have a lot of flexibility in the moves they can use.

“For every move that you learn, there’s hundreds of moves because of really minor modifications. … If you’re a really good wrestler, you modify every single time you do it to the person you’re wrestling based on how wide they are and how strong they are.”

Kiniry said some wrestlers use their upper bodies frequently and some prefer to do leg work.

“Some people, they have very strong upper bodies and, like me, I like to throw people,” he said.

Most of his training time outside of the 11 hours he spends in practice every week is devoted to lifting weights, he said.

“You want strong lower leg muscles and really strong back muscles so you can pull someone in close,” he said, adding that the basic move is called a gut wrench.

Peat, on the other hand, demonstrated her preferred move, a leg grab—on me.

In this move, a wrestler yanks the opponent’s leg up and uses his or her foot to trip the opponent.

As the opponent, I felt as though I was flying through the air—until I landed on my back. It didn’t hurt as much as I imagined it would, unless you count my ego.

The next day, my neck felt sore.

That’s the result of not warming my neck up properly before scrimmaging, the team told me, adding that the neck is the easiest body part to injure in a match.

Peat, who is 5’5” said she started wrestling two years ago after her high school basketball coach asked her to try out for the school team.

She said people don’t usually believe her when she tells them she’s a wrestler.

“They say … I’m so small,” she said. “A lot of people think you have to be really big or really strong or it’s a guy sport or something.”

Although she said it’s hard work, she thinks anybody who’s interested can learn how to wrestle.

“It’s a different way of moving and thinking,” she said. “In competitions they’re not going to be that much bigger or smaller than you.”

Varsity wrestlers compete in different weight classes.

Peat said she’s heard some athletes go on diets before their official weigh-in, which determines their competitive weight category, and then try to bulk up a few days before a match.

She said she keeps a regular diet because she doesn’t like dramatic weight changes.

“I don’t really worry about that too much,” she said. “I just try to eat really healthy all of the time and it does play a role because I feel better when I eat better.”

Food was a big topic at wrestling practice as the athletes brought snacks they shared but, for the most part, the conversation wasn’t about dieting.

Getting pinned on your back is called becoming a fish, Kiniry taught me.

“It just flops around on its back, so you don’t want to be a fish,” he said.

Kiniry said he thinks it’s frustrating when people say wrestling isn’t a sport.

“I’m like, ‘No, this is an actual sport,’” he said. “It’s not fighting, it’s not punching, there’s not very much blood and it’s not for show.”

Pick up Friday’s Journal for an indie sports feature on ultimate frisbee.

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