For the last couple of weeks, my mind has been a constant whirl of thoughts and emotions as I prepared for the World Team Wrestle-Off. Due to an unforeseen serious injury to the 2012 Olympian in my weight class and after winning the National Championships back in March, I was forced to defend the spot as Canada 1 and the opportunity to represent Canada at the Senior World Championships in a best of 3 wrestle-off format.
For weeks I prepared to wrestle my teammate and friend and battled the emotions that ensued in a difficult circumstance such as this. We would battle it out every day in the wrestling room at U of C and in the back of our minds, surely that future fate-deciding match was always present. It was the typical scenario but it has been a pressure that has both elevated us to new levels of success.
I had wrestled my teammate numerous times and had never won. Always been so close but it was never enough. I knew I had to make a change going in and so I developed technical plans and a mental strategy for success. Every day I played out a different scenario of how I would be successful. It was often hard, conjuring images of something when I had too many play-by-plays of the exact opposite. But I was relentless and determined.
I had planned for everything going into yesterday morning...well, everything except the jolting wake-up call I received. I bolted up in the hotel room bed and reached over for the phone and heard my coach on the other line,
“ERICA, WHERE THE #@%$ ARE YOU!?”
My body and mind went into overdrive as I pushed away the clutter of water bottles and snacks from the hotel room side table and looked at the time, 9:14am... my wrestle-off was to start in exactly 16 minutes.
I jumped out of bed, threw my stuff into my knapsack, yanked up my singlet and ran with my best friend and teammate out the door, Jasmine Mian. It wasn’t one of the scenarios I had so meticulously prepared for but alas, that is the nature of sport and life. You can only prepare for so much and beyond that, it’s whatever you do in that moment.
I arrived at the venue by 9:21am and started doing some quick warm-up drills to quickly get me ready to go. It was not the ideal warm-up, (I didn't even have time for a coffee?!) but that’s what makes this sport so great. When the whistle blows, all bets are off and in the dynamic, tactical, sweaty chess match that is the sport of wrestling... anything can happen.
Being the current defending national champion, I was up a match in the best 2 out of 3 series and all I had to do was win one match that day. With the new rules instated by our international governing body, I dominated and won that match 7-0 in 1min 47 seconds. That was all I had to do to secure the spot to represent Canada at the Senior Worlds. It was a surreal moment and afterwards I asked Jasmine, “Am I still dreaming?”
It certainly still feels dreamlike but so does most of my life. I leave in one week to compete at the FISU Games in Kazan, Russia, then home to prepare for the Senior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in September.
You're probably wondering, how did you sleep-in?! How is that possible on the morning that determines so much. Well it was a perfect storm of occurrences, Jasmine set the alarm but her buzzer on her phone was turned to silent, I turned my phone off for the night because I didn't bring a charger, Jasmine and I had planned to drive to the venue ourselves, and all my coaches and teammates assumed since I was wrestling-off my teammate I was just hiding away somewhere during the warm-up to help stay mentally focused.
It fortunately worked out for the best but as my coach suggested, I should always stick with my usual routine and set my own alarms.
Thank-you for all the support and love I have received so far and I’ll continue to blog on about my days living the dream.
Erica Wiebe is a Canadian freestyle wrestler and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Calgary. Her passion for wrestling and writing combine in the words of this blog, sprinkled with a strong opinion on certain matters and a hint of feminist thrown in for good measure.