The Olympic dream is still very much alive for Abbotsford wrestler Jasmit Phulka, and the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympic Games hopeful is heading to Iowa State University to train with some of the best collegiate wrestlers in America before his final qualification tournament.
Beginning Jan. 1 2021, Phulka will be a resident athlete with the Cyclone Regional Training Centre in Ames, Iowa.
Welcome to the C-RTC, Jasmit Phulka! We're excited to add the Pan-Am medalist and Canadian Olympic and World Team member to our room!
— CycloneRTC (@CycloneRtc) November 16, 2020
He will be training and working with the coaches and athletes of the Iowa State Cyclones wrestling team.
The Cyclones have a storied history in NCAA competition, with eight national championships, 17 national runner-up finishes and 45 top-four finishes. They also become the first-ever program to reach 1000 dual wins in 2010.
The program has also crowned 69 NCAA individual wrestling champions and ISU athletes have earned all-American honours 294 times. The last national championship for the program occurred in 1987, and more recently the Cyclones won three straight Big 12 conference titles from 2007 to 2009.
Iowa State wrestlers also competed at the Olympics in 2012, 2008, 2004, 1996, 1988, 1980, 1976, 1972, 1968, 1956, 1948, 1932 and 1928. One of the more notable athletes to come out of the program was Dan Gable, who won a gold medal in 1972. Gable received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donal Trump on Dec. 8, 2020.
Phulka said the decision to join up with the Cyclones was a no-brainer.
“I’m counting down the days till I get there,” he said. “You have so many good guys there and I think it’s the perfect fit for me. I get great training partners and an awesome coaching staff that will get me to the next level.”
Cyclones wrestling coach Kevin Dresser said he is looking forward to Phulka arriving in Iowa.
“We are very excited to add Jasmit to the Cyclone RTC,” he stated in a press release. “He comes to us as the number one guy in his country at 74 kilograms. He brings a reputation as a tireless worker and a guy who is only getting better. I know he will make all of those around him better.”
The purpose of heading to Iowa is to ensure Phulka is completely ready for the World Last Chance Qualifier, which is scheduled to occur in April in Bulgaria. He must finish in the top two at that event to qualify for the Olympics.
Phulka said he feels excellent physically and thinks the time in Iowa will make him better.
“I feel confident right now,” he said. “My numbers at the gym are all going up, my cardio is better and my wrestling on the mat is better. And now I’m going to the Mecca of wrestling where I know I’m going to make even more improvements.”
The Abbotsford native earned bronze medals at the 2020 and 2019 Pan American Games, but said coming up short was a bit of a blessing.
“After that whole experience it clicked for me,” he said. “I wrestled a world silver medalist there and before I just thought I want to go to the Olympics, but now I believe I can medal at the Olympics. I understood that I belong here and sometimes it takes having to wrestle some of the best guys and beat them for you to really understand that feeling.”
Phulka has also tried to remain busy in the community during the pandemic. Back in April, he delivered 100 pizzas purchased by his family’s business, Maple Leaf Nursery, to frontline health care workers at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
He also recently completed a successful toy drive in partnership with the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation that raised over $13,000 in 12 days. Phulka said he enjoy giving back.
“I’m just very grateful,” he said. “I’m 27 years old and I get to travel the world and compete and do what I love. I’ve been blessed. The amount of happiness the toy drive brought to these kids and seeing it firsthand, I never thought a toy could make that big of a difference.”
Phulka will remain in Abbotsford for the holidays, but begins training with the Cyclones in the new year. The 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics are scheduled to occur from July 23 to Aug. 8 in the Japanese city.