Abbotsford wrestler Dhinsa on the cusp of Olympics

At the tender age of 18, Abbotsford's Sunny Dhinsa is just one step away from clinching a berth to next summer's Olympic Games.

After winning the Greco-Roman 120 kg event at the Canadian Olympic qualifying meet on Sunday

After winning the Greco-Roman 120 kg event at the Canadian Olympic qualifying meet on Sunday

At the tender age of 18, Abbotsford wrestling phenom Sunny Dhinsa is just one step away from clinching a berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in London, England.

Dhinsa turned in a stellar performance at the Canadian Olympic qualification event in Winnipeg last weekend – he finished second in the heavyweight (120 kg) freestyle on Saturday before bouncing back with a first-place result in the Greco-Roman discipline on Sunday.

The Greco-Roman victory gives Dhinsa the right to try to qualify for the Olympics on behalf of Canada. He needs a top-two finish at the Pan American Olympic qualifying meet, to be held March 23-25 in Orlando, Fla., to punch his ticket to London.

The funny thing is, heading into the Canadian trials, Dhinsa’s focus was on the freestyle event. He was a definite underdog heading into that final, facing Arjan Bhullar of Richmond, a five-time national heavyweight champ who won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Bhullar won the first round, but Dhinsa won the second, forcing a third and deciding round. But the more experienced wrestler pulled out the victory.

“It was just a slight error on my part that cost me that match,” Dhinsa analyzed.

At that point, as Dhinsa puts it, he had to “settle for Greco” – a discipline which forbids holds below the waist. He made the most of his second chance, beating Ottawa’s Devon Nicholson to qualify.

“It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – I was just a point away from making the freestyle team,” Dhinsa noted. “But either way, I’m on the team.

“Greco is just something I picked up along the way, but I’m getting pretty good at it. I’ll just work at it a little more, and hopefully qualify at the weight and make the Olympics.”

Dhinsa’s performance at the Canadian Olympic trials is all the more impressive considering it came in the midst of his first crack at university-level final exams. The W.J. Mouat Secondary class of 2011 grad is just wrapping up his first semester at Simon Fraser University.

“The teachers were pretty cool about everything,” Dhinsa said with a chuckle, noting that he had to reschedule several of his exams in order to participate at the Olympic meet. “Qualifying for your country for the Olympics is a big thing, so they were pretty supportive.”

Dhinsa is optimistic about his chances at the Pan Am qualifier – he finished second at the Pan Am Games in October, albeit in freestyle.

“Greco shouldn’t be that bad,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good chance.”

One might expect Dhinsa, given his youth, to be wide-eyed at his accomplishments. But the unflappable youngster isn’t fazed in the least.

“I train hard, and when you put in work, you’re going to get something out of it,” he reasoned.

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