This past weekend I had the privilege of competing at the Ivan Yarguin International Tournament in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. This event is touted as being the "world's toughest tournament" because of the Russians dominance on the international scene. Instead of only having to beat one Russian enroute to victory, there is always more than a handful in each weight, all of whom who are top calibre competitors.
In international tournaments, we draw numbers at weigh-ins to decide the order of the bracket. I drew number 10 which slotted me in to face the number one russian, Ekaterina Bukina first match! Last time I was competing in Russia at the 2013 Universiade Games in Kazan I also wrestled her first match! That time I lost and ended up winning a bronze medal for Canada. Two years later, we had wrestled a couple more times, each taking a win off the other, but the hard work is really paying off...
I went into the match confident and poised knowing what I needed to execute technically and sticking to my game plan tactically. I forced her to make some errors early on and caught her on a counter-attack, putting her to her back with 15 seconds left in the first period. I sneaked a peek at the clock and knew this would be my chance to put her away. Nothing sounds more blissful than haring the referee's hand smackdown on the match signalling PIN!
First one down... and on to the next.
En route to the finals I wrestled another Russian and a Belarussian, before facing the number two Russian, Alena Starodubsteva in the finals. I have never wrestled this opponent before and I was excited to match up with her for the big finale!! And man, did I ever feel the anticipation. The whole day was very long... with only three matches and huge weight classes, I spent most of the day relaxing in the warm training room just a 2 minute walk from the competition area. I don't like to watch too much wrestling on the day I am competing as I like to stay focused on what I'm there to do... So I listened to music, hung out with the girls, and watched the American doctor drain Michelle's ear on the side of the training mats.... (Yuck!)
Leading into the finals, there were repechage matches and intermissions in between every final with rhythmic gymnastics performances! The finals started at 6pm but I didn't step onto the mats to compete till around 7:45pm. It's an intricate dance knowing just when is the right time to start warming up so that you're ready to go and not too stale.
I stepped onto the mats in front of the big crowd at the Ivan Yarguin Wrestling Palace and this is the reason I train so hard. So that I can step out onto the mats and put it all on the line with zero regrets. I stuck to my same game plan as I had all day, being offensive with my hands and dictating the pace and capitalizing on her mistakes.
In the last minute, I took over the lead and weathered an onslaught of attacks, defending hard and staying in good body position. After six minutes, the referee blew the whistle and I won a close match 2-1. He raised my hand but I was so disappointed!!!
I wanted so much more.
Coach Leigh Vierling was ecstatic in the corner and couldn't help but feel proud of my effort and tenacity but as he said, we are just scratching the surface. I always want more and this is definitely a reminder for me of how I want to feel when I wrestle and what I want to make happen.
I am heading off to Sweden next weekend to compete again at the Klippan Open and am once again stoked for this opportunity to start afresh!! We will be having a training camp beforehand with the Chinese national team and I cannot wait to get my hands on some fresh meat!
I'll keep you updated on that, till then, Erica
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.