Saunders golden at last: Brock results from senior wrestling nationals
The silver medal streak is over for Brock Wrestling Club member Garette Saunders.
After five straight silver medals at national competitions, including two USPORTS championships, the 23-year-old Brampton native recently won gold in his first-ever appearance at senior nationals.
The former Ontario University Athletics’ bronze, silver and gold medalist went into last weekend’s senior nationals in Waterloo hopeful he could finally break through in the 61-kilogram division.
“I was pretty confident in all the work that I had put it and I just knew it could happen if I wrestled great,” he said. “I know how good I am but it was just unlocking the potential. It was going in with a focused mindset because I knew I was prepared. The coaches put everything into us so I knew I had the right team behind me and I felt good.”
Unlocking his potential was key to ending up atop the podium.
“It is very easy to do really well in our practice room and you feel awesome. It’s ‘I can take down some of the best guys in our room’ and we have a crazy, good room. When you take some of them down, you feel amazing but then you go to a tournament and you wrestle a guy you think you should beat and you are not getting the most out of yourself.”
There are a number of ways Saunders found to maximize his potential.
“It’s mentally and physically and at nationals I was more just focused on my performance instead of focusing on the outcome,” he said.
It was exciting to have a national gold medal around his neck.
“It is kind of hard to explain because personally I wasn’t too ecstatic about it. It felt like a relief because I had finally did what I was supposed to do. But it was really nice to see my parents happy and my high school coach came out. He was really happy and so were a couple of my training partners. That was more important than the gold medal itself.”
His weight class is not an Olympic weight class so he will have to claim the 61-kilogram berth at the worlds at the non-Olympic weight class trials at the end of May. He also put himself in the conversation to be selected for the senior Pan Am championships at the beginning of May.
At the Canadian trials, he will be facing wrestlers who are competing in the weight class after not being successful in the Olympic weight classes at nationals.
Saunders is going to compete for the 61-kilogram spot at senior worlds but he is more focused on winning the trials for the under-23 worlds.
“I am going to do both but I am not sure I would go to senior worlds this year. As a step in the right direction, I would rather start with the under-23s because these trips are really expensive too,” he said. “I want to get the most bang for my buck and get some international experience at the right level.”
He has a lofty goal for his wrestling career.
“I want to be world champion at 61 and for the Olympics I will throw my shot at 57 when the time comes.”
Saunders knows it is a long process.
“I am trying to focus on one tournament at a time and getting better every day. The biggest thing is just staying healthy and keeping your body in shape.”
He tore his ACL two years ago.
“Coming back from surgery was tough but it actually made me a better wrestler. You think it would work against you but it worked for me. It made me sit back and think how temporary everything is. I work harder now, I am more focused, I take care of my body better and I am way more organized with my pursuit.”
Saunders played hockey until Grade 10 when the wrestling coach at Turner Fenton urged him to try the sport.
“I ended up falling in love with the individual aspect of it.”
He placed fourth at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships in Grade 11 and then in Grade 12 he won OFSAA gold.
Other Brock Wrestling Club members winning gold at the senior level were: Hannah Taylor at 57 kilograms; Olivia Di Bacco at 68 kilograms; and, Vanessa Keefe at 72 kilograms.
Brock’s women also won the team event, finishing first with 56 points. The Edmonton Wrestling Club was a distant second with 37 points.
Earning silver medals were: Diana Weicker at 53 kilograms; Daina Armstrong at 55 kilograms; and, Shauna Kuebeck at 76 kilograms.
Earning bronze were Mia Friesen at 57 kilograms and Brianna Fraser at 76 kilograms.
Other top six results turned in by Brock senior wrestlers included: Sam Adams who was fourth at 65 kilograms; Kingston Fong who was fourth at 61 kilograms; fifth-place finishes by Nick Rowe (70 kilograms) and Richard DesChatelets (97 kilograms); and, sixth place-results by Sam Romano (50 kilograms) and, Gabriel Sementilli (57 kilograms).
In the junior men’s event, Brock’s Amaan Gulachi won his second straight Canadian junior crown, winning gold at 74 kilograms.
In the junior women’s event: Bronwyn MacGregor won gold at 62 kilograms; Vanessa Keefe (68 kilograms) and Isabel Jakobi (57 kilograms) earned silver medals; and, Rachel Hall placed fourth at 72 kilograms.
In the cadet women’s event, Brock’s Shahreen Gulacha was third at 53 kilograms.