Going into the Pan Am Cadet Wrestling Championships in Recife, Brazil earlier this month, Austin Gurm and Mickey Khehira had no idea what to expect.
It was, after all, the first time either Abbotsford wrestler had represented Canada internationally at a meet of such magnitude.
“It’s nerve-wracking, seeing all these wrestlers from other countries,” said Gurm, a Grade 10 student at Abby Traditional.
“But once you’re out there, you just wrestle how you normally wrestle. The competition is way higher than it is here, and it was fun testing what I’ve got against people from other countries.”
As it turned out, both compared favourably to their international foes. Gurm took bronze in the 76 kg freestyle division, and was one of two Canadian wrestlers selected to compete in the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in August.
Khehira, in Grade 11 at W.J. Mouat Secondary, managed to bring home the silver in the 85 kg Greco-Roman event.
A third Abbotsford wrestler, Navdeep Toor of Rick Hansen Secondary, finished fifth in the 46 kg freestyle.
Greco-Roman wrestling, in contrast to freestyle, forbids holds below the waist, and for Khehira, the Pan Am meet was just his second tournament competing in the discipline. The first was the FILA Canadian cadet trials, which he won.
“It’s harder, it’s different,” he acknowledged with a smile. “I didn’t think I’d do this well, but it worked out.”