Kuebeck rekindles her passion
Much has changed in the past year for Brock Wrestling Club member Shauna Kuebeck.
“I reaffirmed my love for wrestling after having almost quit at this time last year,” the 25-year-old Greenbank native said during a break in preparations for the upcoming senior world wrestling championships Sept. 10-18 in Belgrade, Serbia. “I was not sure I wanted to come back, I wasn’t enjoying it, school had just finished and I was in a major transitional period in my life. COVID was still happening and it was hard to compete.”
Like every athlete, Kuebeck had been hit hard by the pandemic.
“It had been a really rough couple of years and I just wasn’t enjoying wrestling any more.”
Many of her wrestling friends had retired and moved away and she was one of the older women on the team.
“I left with a bitter taste in my mouth and it was nobody’s fault. It was mental and I couldn’t get into it again.”
She tried baseball, working full-time, had drinks with friends after work and found all of that lacking.
“That wasn’t for me. It wasn’t it.”
Fortunately for Kuebeck, her mat passion was rekindled.
“I took some time off and realized something was missing in my life. I came back to wrestling and it was ‘If I am going to do this, it is because I love it, not because I have to.’ ”
Kuebeck was ‘super’ surprised her love of the sport returned so quickly. She credits strength and conditioning coach Vicki Bendus for helping get her there.
“It has had a huge impact on my physical ability and my health. I was able to get my mental health in check and remember why I love the sport.”
Her biggest breakthrough this season came at the national wrestling trials in May in Edmonton. Competing in the semifinals of the 76-kilogram Olympic weight class, she was trailing 8-0 with two minutes remaining to Taylor Follensbee of the Saskatoon Wrestling Club before rallying to win 20-12.
“I had been afraid to be great and I put these girls up on pedestals right up until that match when I realized her name meant nothing,” Kuebeck said. “I was a better wrestler and I could wrestle better than what I was wrestling. I had a click in the middle of the match.”
Even though she lost in the final to former world medalist Justina Di Stasio, that was the beginning of a breakthrough season.
“It seems this year that a lot of things have clicked and it has been a really good year at least domestically for me. This year it was ‘Why can’t it be me who wins nationals and why can’t it be me who goes to senior worlds.’ ”
She earned her spot at senior worlds by going 3-0 in the 72-kilogram division at the non-Olympic weight class trials in July with a pin, a victory by technical superiority and an 8-3 victory over Follensbee.
Last week, Keubeck trained with Di Stasio.
“She is a phenomenal person but I know I can push the pace more than I did in that match (trials),” the 2020 USPORTS and Ontario University Athletics champion said. “Just because she is a great person and I want great things for her, I am not allowing myself to be afraid of her. We are friends but on the mat she is my biggest rival. I am going to be chasing Justina and making sure she knows I am on her heels.”
Kuebeck is excited to be competing at her first senior worlds.
“It is going to be a big first experience and it will be getting my head on straight. The major goal is to not be afraid to be great and to go after everything. Just because these girls are seeded to have won so many other titles, I am not putting anybody on a pedestal. The goal is to go out and be happy with my wrestling.”
Earlier this year, she attended an international meet in Spain.
“I was fighting a cold so I didn’t do as well as I would have liked to but it was reassuring in the four matches all but one went the full six minutes. The first one I won and all the other ones were all really tight losses. It was nice to know that even not being at my optimal performance, I hung in there with every single one of them.”
Since leaving Brock, she has been wrestling full-time and attending school full-time at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy in Hamilton.
“I thought it was going to be easier but it is actually a lot harder because my school isn’t here now. I have to commute to school and it’s a professional school for adults,” she said. “It’s not kids who are there because their mom and dad told them to be there. It is for people who want to be there and there is no slacking off.”
Brock coach Dave Collie has seen Kuebeck make a number of improvements this year.
“She is in her breakthrough stage right now and the worlds will be a great experience for her,” she said. “It will be much tougher than Spain but going in she should be confident because she knows she can be right there with most of the women who are there. On a good day, she can do OK.”