The state of wrestling at Concordia

Stingers athlete Sophia Bechard (right) Credit: Concordia Athletics

The wrestling program has always consistently been one of Concordia’s best sports programs. It’s still good, thanks to a family who found a system.

Concordia University is home to one of Canada’s top wrestling programs, thanks to elite athlete and Stingers head coach Victor Zilberman. In 1985, Zilberman obtained a Concordia sports administration diploma, and from then, he eventually earned multiple National Championship trophies while coaching the team. In addition, he’s coached the Canadian Olympic team many times over.

It was in 1977 that Zilberman founded the Montreal Wrestling Club (MWC), which has occupied the Reinitz Wrestling Centre at the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA since 2001. There, some of the finest wrestlers show up, for three days every week, including Olympic and Commonwealth games gold medalist Guivi Sissaouri, and visitors from the likes of MMA legend Georges St-Pierre. 

David Zilberman, Victor’s son, takes after his father and is currently the head coach of the Stingers team, a teacher at Vanier College, and is in charge of the MWC. 

David Zilberman coaching during a tournament.
Credit: Concordia Athletics

The duo keep their eyes peeled for high-school talent across Canada to recruit to the club. If deemed fit, they will eventually end up wearing the Stingers’ maroon and gold. 

From October to February, the Stingers compete at national wrestling tournaments at least twice a month. So far this season, the team has participated in the following events; McMaster Invitational on Oct. 29, the Concordia Invitational Wrestling Tournament on Nov. 5, and the York Open on Nov 19. 

Coming up next is the University of Toronto Open on Dec 2. The weekend of Dec. 15, a few Stingers alumni will travel to Edmonton for the 2024 Olympic Canadian Team Trials. 

Everyone on the team practices for two and a half to four hours in the morning, and the same in the evening, six days a week. They all work at least one job, all while taking classes at Concordia. “Everyone’s a psycho,” said two-time Pan-American junior gold medalist Alex Moore. The star who is also on the Stingers team was elected as the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament for the latest National Championships in February. Moore is currently training to qualify at the upcoming Canadian Team Trials in the 86 kg weight class. 

For MWC member Yann Heymeg, who originally played quarterback for his middle school in Saint-Césaire, which is located just west of Granby. When he suffered an injury to his throwing hand, his gym teacher who was also a wrestling coach, encouraged him to take up the sport. Heymeg would go to the MWC on Thursday evenings and by the ninth grade, he’d dropped football to pursue wrestling. 

Today, at 20 years old, Heymeg has received a scholarship to study recreation and leisure studies at Concordia after graduating from Vanier this fall semester. 

“It’s more gratifying to have an education for free when I’m working hard doing what I want,” says Heymeg, classed at 72 kg. “I give my 100 per cent when training, and I think the coach sees it.” Just this past year, he finished second in the U23 National Championships, and second in the Canada Games.

This year, the Stingers team is missing certain players in different weight classes. Only about half of both the men’s and women’s teams are filled out, so it seems that the team’s ranking has dropped over this past year. The women’s team dropped from sixth to seventh overall, and the men’s from seventh to ninth. The team, however, has hopes in first years making their debut.

Maddie Charlton is a first-year standout wrestler from Halifax, Nova Scotia who moved to Montreal a little over a year ago to train at the MWC. In the 50 kg weight class, Charlton was placed third in her first tournament with the Stingers at the Concordia Invitational, and first at the York Open. “I’m still producing results, but there’s tons of athletes here that are very, very experienced and it’s a good place for me because I’m always being challenged,” she said, impressed by the club’s talent.

Stingers player Jeremy Poirier, classed at 100 kg, is on the other end of his academic career. Onto his fifth year at Concordia, he’ll be graduating at the end of this winter semester. He won the USports National Championships this past February.

The New Brunswick native joined the MWC in 2016, after David Zilberman spotted his older brother, Geno Poirier, excelling with the University of Regina Cougars. Poirier eventually placed sixth at the National Championships. “[David] is tough, he pushes us hard, but it’s great. He shows us all the technical aspects, but he talks a lot about the mental part of the sport.”   

Poirier has ranked in the top two at the Senior Pan-American Championships for the past three years: he was placed second in 2023 in Argentina and in Mexico in 2022,  and first in 2021 in Guatemala. He and Moore won gold medals at the USports National Championships earlier this year at the University of Alberta, now having won multiple times. Poirier is aiming to fly to Edmonton for the Canadian Team Trials if his hamstring heals properly. 

Although the team isn’t in its greatest shape for now, the Zilbermans are regarded as two of the best in Canada, so the Stingers’ fate rests assured in good hands. If you wrestle in Canada, you know the Zilbermans.

Wrestlers to watch:

Women’s: 

Maddie Charlton (50 kg)

Virginie Gascon (56 kg)

Sophia Bechard (59kg)

Alexia Sherland (83 kg)

Men’s:

Ryder Church (65 kg) 

Liam Menard (68 kg)

Zaur Arsagov (82 kg)

Angus Scott (90 kg)

Olympics:

Jade Dufour

Linda Morais

Laurence Beauregard

Amanda Savard 

Alex Moore

Frédérick Choquette

Riley Otto

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