Silver golden for women’s wrestling coach
The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games will forever have a special place in Heather Sweezey’s heart.
“I have been involved in four Canada Games and have won two golds, a bronze and this silver, and this silver is the one that I am most proud of,” said the head coach of Ontario’s women’s wrestling team. “The golds that we won we had such dominant teams but this time we totally shocked ourselves. Usually you come off a silver with a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth but absolutely not this time. I am so proud of what the girls did here.”
The 41-year-old Sault Ste. Marie native was women’s head coach in 2009 and 2013 when the team won gold and served as the development coach for Ontario in 2005 when the team mined bronze.
Sweezey was hired for the head coach position in February 2020 and then COVID hit.
“We started thinking about the program again in November of last year and we shut it down again. We had the trials in March and April of 2022.”
Many of the other provinces also had to shut down their training but not to the extent found in Ontario.
“They had wrestling tournaments, dual meets and things like that in 2021 while we did not,” Sweezey said. “It was huge because I think we lost about 80 per cent of our girl wrestlers.”
That resulted in minimal numbers at the trials.
“We had only two people in some weight classes and all we had was first place and the alternate. The depth wasn’t there that we would normally have,” she said. “Looking at the national results this year, both at the junior trials and cadet trials at U19 and U17, Ontario did not perform well at all. On paper, we should have finished on fourth place and I was aiming for a bronze.
“We ended up being one match away from winning the gold medal and that was really exciting.”
Team Ontario was able to succeed by catching lightning in a bottle.
“The girls rallied behind us and they rallied behind the team,” Sweezey said. “We had a pretty slow start on the first day but we had numbers (more athletes than the other team) against those teams. On the second day, they starting getting that team spirit, they were feeding off each other and they really rallied to perform absolutely the best they could.”
Sweezey described the rallying as amazing.
“Unlike most wrestling tournaments, it was a dual meet which we don’t wrestle a lot of in Canada. It is really a team-based competition and you feel the energy. Our girls were able to get wins and everybody fed off of them. I think that is what got us so close to BC.”
On paper, the gold-medal match between British Columbia and Ontario should have been no contest.
“They had many national champions on their team while we had one. And we were one match away from winning,” she said.
At the end of the individual finals Thursday, Sweezey looked tired enough to sleep for a week.
“It is a lot of work but I enjoy it and I am pretty confident in my abilities as a female coach to take on a lead role,” she said. “I love supporting the girls and getting the most out of them but this will be my last Canada Games as a coach.”
Sweezey had several memorable moments during the week.
“The high point was destroying Alberta when we thought it was going to be a close dual meet. And then coming out and wrestling tough for the gold was great.”
The Thorold Secondary School teacher won’t be sitting by a pool, decompressing and enjoying a job well done any time soon.
“I am leaving to go to the junior worlds in Bulgaria tomorrow (Friday). I will be there to help coach the three Brock athletes (Mia Friesen, Aman Gulacha and Roger Li).”