Wrestling is a very intense, physically demanding sport, requiring superior agility and strength.
The Varsity Blues Wrestling Team is comprised of only four men and three women who are actively competing. The teammates practice together and with non-Blues wrestlers.
“We have some international wrestlers,” says Blues wrestler Dene Ringuette. “Quite a few who are the best in Canada, who are almost uncontested.”
There is a maximum of six practices per week. Some practices are devoted to technique, while others are solely devoted to matches. The intensity of the practice differs depending on whether or not a tournament is approaching.
“You have volume training, and then you have high-intensity low volume training before major events. This basically mimics what you do at competitions,” says Ringuette.
Team members have the chance to improve their technique with members of other clubs who drop by to practice with the Blues. Teammates are supportive of each other, often acting like coaches for other wrestlers.
“At practice everyone works together,” adds wrestler Alyssa James.
Although upon first glance wrestling may not seem safe, Riguette insists that, “Despite the fact that there are a lot of injuries, it is a very safe sport. I can’t think of one that is that safe for how intense it is.”
There are a few distinct styles of wrestling. Folkstyle wrestling is found in the United States and Cuba, while Greco Roman is most popular in Europe. The Varsity Blues wrestlers primarily compete in Olympic freestyle.
Folkstyle involves technique similar to freestyle, but with slightly different rules, while Greco Roman is entirely different. For Greco Roman, feet are not allowed to be used in any way — whether to take your opponent down or to escape a hold. Greco Roman wrestling involves more high-amplitude throws. Riguette won the Greco Roman Ontario Provincials last year, but his training is not focused on this style.
”It’s certainly done as an afterthought here in Ontario. I guarantee that all my opponents see it as an afterthought,” says Ringuette.
The team participates in up to eight tournaments per year within the university circuit, and in tournaments outside the circuit, including provincials and nationals. At every tournament, each match is best two out of three, two-minute rounds. Matches last between four and six minutes.
An exception occurs if an athlete executes a five-point takedown: this occurs rarely and only if the opponent’s heels go over their head during the course of the throw.
“The criteria for a five-point take down is that during the course of a throw or a leg takedown, their feet have made an arc, meaning their feet have gone head over heels,” says Riguette.
This takedown ends the match.
Another possibility is the one-point takedown which is when you take the opponent down by grabbing their feet and putting them into a non-dangerous position, like on their back.
There’s also the two-point takedown.
“For two-points you’d have to expose their back to the mat while par terre (on the ground)” says James.
A three-point takedown is from “feet to back” — when you take the opponent by their feet, they must end up on their back.
If the score is zero-zero when time is up, the tie-breaks are decided by flipping a coin.
“One person gets to grab the other’s leg — if they score, they win. If they don’t score, the other person wins,” says Ringuette.
If the final score is a tie but not zero-zero then the last athlete who scored wins the match.
At both competitions and practices the Varsity athletes get to compete against and practice with players from all around the world, always learning new techniques and styles.
“Often I find that Russians are the best wrestlers. Their style is more balanced, more like a chess match,” says Ringuette. “They never seem to beat up an opponent. That’s more the American style. The Russians are focused on deception, and I find that it works better. It’s not about trying to sneak in there quick. Instead, they’ll set you up at the beginning.”
Both James and Ringuette say they enjoy wrestling because there are always new techniques to be learned, it is physically intense, and it is an individual sport. Although the team boasts some elite wrestlers, it also welcomes those who are new to the sport.
“If you want to join, just come to practice, and if you work hard enough, you’ll get to compete,” says James.