Some years ago, a teacher at Boston Bar School asked two grade 11 boys about their post-graduate plans. “We’re going to play for the Canucks!” was their quick reply.
“But do you even know how to skate?” asked the teacher, trying to nudge them back into reality.
“No but we’ll learn!”
If you’ve got a lofty goal, you need to start taking the developmental steps well in advance — like 16-year-old Karam Shergill, who has a dream of being an Olympic wrestler and has some 100 trophies and medals earned in the sport since he started competing at age 4-and-a-half.
The 102 Kg grade 10 student added two more medals to his collection last month: a gold and a bronze, earned at the Asics Cadet and Juvenile Nationals, April 9-12 in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The gold came in the cadet (grade 9 and 10) 100-115 kilo freestyle wretling class and the bronze came in juvenile Greco-Roman, where Shergill was competing against boys aged 17 and 18.
Freestyle allows leg holds and trips, whereas Greco-Roman is focused on upper-body grappling.
“I had to wrestle in three matches in cadet — plus my first match, which was a bye,” said Shergill on Monday. “Ontario and BC wrestlers were seeded the highest, so I did a draw with an Ontario guy and he had to wrestle in the first round and I got the bye.
“Each match is six minutes, with two three-minute periods and a thirty-second rest in between,” he explained. “If you ‘tech’ a guy (by getting a points spread of 10 or more points), it would be over sooner — like in my first match, where it was over in about four-and-a-half minutes.
“If you can get around behind your opponent, that’s two points; if you can throw him to the mat, that’s four and if you can hold him there, that’s four more,” explained Shergill.
“My second match, I won 12-2, then in the finals, I was against a wrestler from Esquimalt, Hunter Grant, who I had never wrestled before. I won 8-4. I got behind him twice and pushed him out of the ring twice (2 points for each.) I was on defence and he got behind me twice — but that’s fine.
Shergill had injured his wrist before going back east, but tape and ice made the pain bearable, until he met a grade 12 wrestler in the round robin juvenile event.
“I won my first match, then I lost to a guy from my club, Pawandeep Khinda. He knew I had a sore wrist — but I taped them both, so he wouldn’t know which one was bothering me. Then I won against a grade 12 guy but I couldn’t wrestle any more, because I broke my wrist.”
Shergill’s two missed matches gave automatic wins to those wrestler, but a bit of good luck kept him in medal contention.
“The guy I lost to, lost to the guy I beat, so adding up all the points Khinda went to the bottom and I ended up third,” said Shergill, laughing at his good fortune.
Things didn’t work so well for Shergill’s 15-year-old brother Daya, who also travelled to the competition, both accompanied by dad Harjit.
“Daya had five or six matches in the 54 kilo event — but it’s tough, going against grade 10s,” said Karam. Next year, Daya will be a senior in the cadet age class.
Fridays are Karam’s day of rest, when he cuts back to doing a bit of work in the small gym at home. Otherwise, it’s six days of training for cardio, power lifting and explosive conditioning — as well as wrestling on four of those days at the Guru Gobind Singh club in Abbotsford.
Shergill said he believes what his science teacher, Geordie Webber says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
He knows he still has a long climb ahead of him.
“I want to get to the Olympics,” he vows. “This is nothing — it’s the Nationals. It’s the juniors after high school, where it starts to get real hard. I don’t know of anyone who has gone into Olympic wrestling from high school.”