Mia’s boots are made for wrestling
For the past year and a half, multi-talented Mia Friesen has been agonizing over whether to pursue track and field or wrestling at the post-secondary level.
“I cried a lot,” the 18-year-old St. Catharines native said, with a laugh. “I put a lot of anxiety and extra pressure on myself while everyone else was saying they would support me in whatever I did. But in my head, it was all stress and anxiety.”
She even tried setting timelines for making a decision.
“I wouldn’t meet the timeline and then I was worried that I didn’t know what I was doing.”
About three weeks ago, the provincial champion and national medalist in both wrestling and the heptathlon finally had an epiphany.
“I was sitting in my room thinking about it, weighing over everything and I looked at my wrestling boots and asked myself ‘Why is this even a decision?’ I knew in my heart and I knew in the back of my head that I was a wrestler trying to be a track athlete.
“I stared at my wrestling boots for about five minutes and then I thought to myself that making the decision was a lot easier than I made it out to be.”
After making her choice, the 12B student at Governor Simcoe went downstairs where her mom, Jeni, and one of her brothers were watching Monday Night football.
“I know nothing about football but I sat down and watched for about five minutes before I leaned over and told them I was going to Brock.”
Her mother looked at her and told her to phone Brock head coach Marty Calder and give him the news. Mia phoned him the next day but not before Jeni texted Calder to let him know Mia had finally made up her mind. Jeni didn’t tell Calder what Mia had decided.
“I was nervous because I am sure that girl could play checkers and be awesome at it. She can do anything,” Calder said. “I would have been really happy for her if she has chosen to go to the States for a Division 1 scholarship in track but I am even more excited that she has chosen Brock because I think we can do a lot for her. It is going to be an exciting journey.”
Mia smiled when remembering the call to Calder.
“I asked him if there was still a spot on the team for me and he burst out laughing.”
Calder had offered her a wrestling scholarship but she would have gone to Brock even if there wasn’t any offer being made.
“It doesn’t hurt but I would have gone anyways because I know it is where I am supposed to be,” Friesen said.
Brock is the perfect choice for her.
“I feel very at home at Brock and I feel at home with the team,” the former national field lacrosse champion said. “But along with being at home, every single athlete and every single coach in the Brock room pushes you way beyond your comfort zone and way, way beyond the limits that you think that you have mentally and physically. You get pushed past them and you realize that those weren’t your limits. When you think you have another limit, they push you past that again.”
She craves the intensity of the Brock wrestling room.
“I want to be pushed, I want to be beat up and I want to know that I can be the best, but there is a whole whack of people who are way better than me right now,” she said. “I find that out every day in that room and you have good days and bad days. And even on your good days, you get beat up.”
Friesen is the first to admit she knows nothing about wrestling.
“She has an immense amount of athletic talent but she is just discovering wrestling and she is just starting to figure it out,” Calder said. “She is in the infancy stage but I feel we have the coaching staff and the senior athletes who are really going to be able to guide her once she gets here and starts training twice a day.”
The Brock wrestling room is home to world champions, world medalists and Olympians on the female side. Most, at one time or another, have left the Brock wrestling room in tears because things weren’t going their way for whatever reason.
“I have seen it, I have been on the brink of those moments and I know I am going to be there. I know that for sure,” Friesen said.
She has already had a chance to spar against former world champion Jessie MacDonald and had to pinch herself that it was actually happening.
“I am so much bigger than her but her strength, technique and athleticism are so next level.”
She also sparred once with 2016 Olympian Michelle Fazzari.
“She didn’t even go that hard and she kicked the shit out of me,” Friesen said, with a laugh.
One day, she wants to be the one doing the S-kicking.
“Talking about your goals makes them real and I want to be an Olympic champ. I want to be the best in the world,” said Friesen, who plans to study psychology. “I have a long way to go but there is no better place to start than Brock.”
Calder feels the sky’s the limit for Friesen.
“It is as high as Tonya’s (three-time Olympic medalist Tonya Verbeek) and as high as the best athletes we’ve had,” he said. “She has got the physicality and that’s really critical in women’s wrestling. She needs to learn the technique and stuff but her base is superior. I don’t think she has even tapped into how she can utilize that base in wrestling. “
Calder loves that her talent is accompanied by level-headedness.
“She’s articulate, she’s cerebral and she is a pleasant kid. I am looking forward to working with her.”
Friesen thought about wrestling when she first arrived at Governor Simcoe but focused her athletic talents elsewhere.
“I played volleyball instead and I think I was the worst volleyball player ever, I mean ever. So in Grade 10, I told myself I was never doing that again. I chose wrestling instead,” she said. “My older brother (Owen) was a wrestler and I always wanted to do everything that he did.”
It was love at first fight.
“My first practice I went in knowing nothing and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I don’t know how to even put it into words but it felt so comfortable being uncomfortable. It was strange how quickly I fell in love with being in other persons’ personal spaces and being so physical with someone.”
It was a whole new world.
“It was nothing that I had ever done before because I was a gymnast and a lacrosse player. They’re physical but wrestling is a whole different ball game. It’s intensity, the constant grind and going six minutes as hard as you possibly can.”
And there’s no one to blame if things go awry.
“I like being responsible for myself and being responsible for winning and losing.”
In Grade 10, Friesen won the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championship and placed sixth at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships.
The following year, she joined the Brock Junior Badgers program and her wrestling career took off. The former OFSAA junior girls hurdles champion garnered a bronze medal at OFSAA, won the provincial juvenile championships and mined a silver medal at the national championships.
In 2020 before the pandemic hit, Friesen finished atop the podium at the junior (under-20) provincial championships and the juvenile provincials (under-19) and won a silver at OFSAA.