Connor Church shines at the 2023 Canadian Wrestling Championships

The Concordia wrestler and marketing student talks about his recent success at the university and national levels

Concordia student and wrestler Connor Church dominated at the 2023 Canadian Wrestling Championships, and his performance was telling of the wrestler he is.

The nineteen-year-old participated with his club, the Montreal National Training Centre (NTC), and began the championships wrestling in the junior division, which encompasses ages 18 to 20. The entirety of the championships was held from March 9-12.

Church had four matches in the men’s 79 kg junior division that all ended in technical falls, which automatically ends a match once a 10-point difference occurs.

Not wanting to leave any chances for his opponents, he won all his matches within the first round.

Church also wrestled in the senior division to see how he would measure next year and to gain experience.

“I wanted to see what I would need to work on, but it ended up going really well,” he said.

Indeed, the senior competition went no different than the junior. He once again ended all his matches in a single round due to technical falls. However, he still noticed a “huge difference” in the level of competition between both divisions.

“The senior guys are a lot stronger, a lot more experienced,” he said. “There are a lot of smarter wrestlers, they were tougher matches, but I was still able to get the job done.”

His coach at both Concordia and the Montreal NTC, David Zilberman, was very glad with Church’s performance.

“I thought he dominated everybody,” Zilberman said. “He wrestled really well. There’s still a lot to work on, but in the long term he shows a lot of promise to be an elite competitor on the international scene.”

His junior division win was his second in a row. In both years, it earned him a spot on Team Canada for the U20 Pan-American Championships.

He won bronze at the Pan-American Championships last year, but his eyes are set on gold this year for when they will be held in Chile.

Church attributes a lot of his success at the Canadian championships to his club. Because he practiced with older and more experienced teammates, he was prepared for the age difference in the senior competition.

“I wrestle against some of the best wrestlers in Canada every day at our club,” he said. “It gives me confidence going into every match.”

Church started wrestling six years ago in Winnipeg, his hometown. Then, in August 2021, he reached out to the coaches at Concordia.

“I knew that, if I wanted to excel at wrestling, this is the place where I wanted to be in Canada,” he said.

He was invited by Zilberman to try out and shortly thereafter, he moved to Montreal and started training with Concordia, as well as competing with the Montreal NTC. Zilberman remembers him displaying a lot of physical talent.

“He was strong and explosive, but a little raw,” Zilberman said. “He’s definitely evolved into a more technical wrestler, but he’s still very strong and gifted and that helps him a lot.”

“He puts in a lot of hours of training and he’s learning the game really quickly,” Zilberman added. “He has a strong character and will to win and it’s really important.”

This year was Church’s first time competing with the Concordia team and, in his first U Sports Championships, Church won the gold medal in the men’s 76 kg.

“That win, going into nationals, really boosted my confidence,” Church said. “It helped my success in the national championships and built my momentum.”

Church has indeed been on a roll ever since his move to Montreal. His innate motivation has undeniably been central in his achievements.

“I’m always willing to wake up and go to practice,” he said, adding that he trains two to three times a day, six days a week. “It’s a pursuit of excellence [for me].”

Church’s love for wrestling is palpable and a big part of his success.

“Nothing is more important to me,” he said. “It’s all I think about all day. It’s an obsession, really.”

Church’s next big tournament will be the 2023 Canadian U23 Wrestling Championships held in Laval on May 27-28. On top of the U20 Pan-American Championships in July, he will also be headed to Poland in August for the U20 World Championships.

“I’ve been eyeing that down for a full year now and that’s been my goal to get that win,” he said.

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