Masters of the mat do ConU proud

Someone taking a tour around the Concordia Athletics complex at Loyola would likely have the privilege of running into more than a few quality athletes who could stake the claim of having accomplished many a great thing in their careers. Unfortunately that person would also likely miss out on seeing a group of Concordia athletes whom, both individually and collectively, have enjoyed greater success than just about every other varsity team.

While many might assume that Concordia has a wrestling team, the real question is: Do they know just how good these athletes are?

Despite being the smallest in number out of all of Concordia’s athletic squads, the handful of wrestlers that represent the university have managed to consistently remain one of the most dominant forces in Canadian university competition. This has been, in part, due to the recruitment of wrestlers that look to have bright futures ahead of them. It has also been largely due to the man who has brought them all under his tutelage. Concordia coach Victor Zilberman is unquestionably one of the most accomplished coaches in the country and has been heading up the university’s program for over 25 years. Not just that, but Zilberman has also been on the coaching staff for four Canadian Olympic teams and has guided many to success at the provincial, national and global levels.

The Rookie

Perhaps, one of Zilberman’s greatest accomplishments will turn out to be the job that he has done coaching his own son, David Zilberman. The latter Zilberman has had about as good of a rookie campaign as could’ve been hoped this year, even winning honours as the CIS rookie of the year.

However, his list of accomplishments goes back as far as his teenage years when Zilberman won three consecutive junior national championships, the final coming in his freshman year at Vanier College. There he received further recognition by being named Vanier’s “Male Athlete of the Year” in 2002. Then last year, for good measure, he won the bronze medal at the Pan American Championships. “I’m pretty close to achieving some of my goals. I think medalling at the Worlds is within my reach over the next few years,” Zilberman says of his aspirations to compete at the Olympic and World Championships. Even with such high ambitions he has been able to maintain a strong sense of determination and maturity that should continue to help him grow. “The sport humbles you – it tries to teach you to never be satisfied with what you’ve achieved. You always want to stay hungry.”

The Sophomore

Then there is last year’s Concordia male rookie of the year Tyler Marghetis who wrestles in the 76 kg weight class and has kept things up with an impressive sophomore season. Hailing from Ottawa, the 20-year-old was last year’s Junior National Champion and had a specific intent when coming to Montreal. “I came here specifically to train with Victor Zilberman. He’s a great coach and he’s renowned across the world.”

Marghetis started wrestling recreationally in grade 7 and moved on to competitive training in grade 10. In the years since, he has turned into one of the country’s most successful young wrestlers and has given himself a chance to impress people on larger stages. “Last year winning the Junior Championships qualified me to go to the Worlds in Turkey. That was a great honour to represent Canada internationally.”

It also appears that capturing the gold medal at last month’s CIS championship’s has sparked an already healthy flame of desire for Marghetis. “My goal is to represent Canada in Beijing in 2008 [Olympics]. So 2012 is the year that I plan to step onto the world stage and win an Olympic gold for Canada.” While it may seem like a while to wait, Marghetis says that patience is an integral part of wrestling, “You peak later in life in this sport. It’s not like women’s gymnastics where you have 16-year-old girls winning Olympic medals.”

The Veteran

If anyone knows what it’s like to have to maintain focus despite enjoying tremendous success, fifth-year veteran Martine Dugrenier would be that person.

“The last five years have been a lot of improvement. When I started I was pretty much at zero,” she says. “I think the reason that we do well is that it’s not just enough for us to be good – we always want to be getting better.”

Dugrenier never had ambitions of wrestling glory when she was younger as most of her energy was focused on gymnastics. Even after trying it for a while she still didn’t find any immediate joy with the sport. “I didn’t enjoy the sport that much at the beginning because I didn’t know it that well.” But after injuring both ankles in her first semester at Concordia, which prevented her from continuing in gymnastics, Dugrenier went back to wrestling and discovered a passion for it. “I would really like to win a World championship – the Olympics don’t have my weight class. A world championship is also more realistic because they are every two years.”

Now in her final semester with wrestling team, Dugrenier can look back on what was remarkable university career. This includes having been named Concordia’s female athlete of the year the last two years and being recognized as the CIS outstanding female wrestler after taking home the gold medal at the National championships in March. It marked the third straight year that she accomplished the feat. The unfortunate thing about the success of the athletes is that they might only receive their deserved recognition every four years when the Olympics take place. But while they would like better attention the wrestlers on this team seem content at focusing on what they do on the mat.

“It’s tough for the general public to appreciate – it’s not like basketball where you can play in your front yard,” Marghetis says. “It’s the oldest Olympic sport – there are cave drawings of it. I don’t think its ever going to change but I’ve gotten used to not getting attention.” With humble attitudes the Concordia wrestling team, which is far more than just these three individuals, is a testament to how this brand of athlete has and will continue to represent the university.

“The great thing about the club here is that it’s so competitive,” Marghetis says. “The majority of the guys here are way above me.”

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