In the oldest piece of literature known to mankind, a warrior-king called Gilgamesh was challenged by a stranger from the forest, a wild man named Enkido. To determine which man was superior, the two warriors competed in an ancient martial art considered to be the purest form of contest – wrestling.
The world is full of wrestlers. You wrestled as a child, I'm sure of it, and Lakehead University wrestles. In fact, Lakehead has been committed to the sport of wrestling for more than 40 years, earning many championship titles over the years.
Varsity wrestling at Lakehead began in 1970 under the guidance of Coach Gordon T. Garvie. Since then, it has been one of Lakehead's most storied sport programs, with many individual national wrestling champions and team championships at the conference level.
Last fall during the annual Zanatta Games Homecoming Weekend (October 1-3, 2010), Lakehead hosted a reunion that brought together more than 50 former wrestlers, spanning each of the four decades. The weekend was capped off by the annual varsity team versus alumni team dual wrestling meet (alumni won) and a barbecue, hosted by former Wrestling Coach Francis Clayton.
Brock Curtis, Head Wrestling Coach
Seeing everyone together that weekend and celebrating Egon Beiler's induction to the 2009 Athletics' Wall of Fame made me realize that Lakehead has much to be proud of in the sport of wrestling.
I remember my first experience at wrestling and the lesson in humility it taught me, but I wanted to know why others wrestle and what impact wrestling had on their lives. So I asked a former coach, Francis Clayton, and two of Lakehead University's most decorated wrestlers, Egon Beiler and Katie Patroch, to share their thoughts.
Francis Clayton (BA'93) is Lakehead's longest serving wrestling coach who served in the position from 1985 to 2005. Highlights from his career include seeing Lakehead's women's team win two conference championships, coaching Tasha Eady (BScN'08) at the Junior World Championships in Lithuania in 2005 where she placed third, hosting the Olympic wrestling team trials in 1996, and taking a team of Lakehead wrestlers to the Challenge Cup International in Manchester for five consecutive years.
"You don't need a specific attribute [to do well] in wrestling," says Clayton. "Wrestling forces you to deal with failure. It is no different than any other sport. You have to prepare to do well, and sometimes, like in life, you can prepare and not do well."
Egon Beiler (HBPHE'77) competed primarily in the featherweight division and represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Munich (1972) and Montreal (1976). He is a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist and a Pan-American gold medalist who completed a doctorate in dental science at The University of Western Ontario while continuing to train. Today, he runs a successful dentistry practice in Kitchener, where he lives with his wife Carol and their five children.
"I really don't think I would have become a dentist if I hadn't been involved with wrestling because I was not an outgoing individual," says Bieler. "In fact, I was quite timid and shy. Wrestling certainly gave me tremendous confidence in myself and taught me how to share space with others and work as a team. Everyone needs to get along, have a heart, and help others achieve their goals. Getting involved with athletics makes one an extremely well-rounded person, one that any CEO or business person would love to hire."
Over the course of her wrestling career at Lakehead, Katie Patroch (BSc'04, BEd'06) earned several gold, silver, and bronze medals at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) Championships. In 2001, she was a Junior National Champion and in 2003 earned a gold medal at the Commonwealth Championships. Today she lives in London, Ontario, and teaches at Saunders Secondary School.
Says Patroch: "I remember being in Japan for my first World Championships and a fellow teammate told me that once you deal with the stress of competing on the world level, the stress of everyday life seems minimal.
"I have learned to deal with intense stress over years of competing. Wrestling has taught me the value of perseverance. I have become a very determined person and believe that anything is possible if you're willing to work hard enough."
A great wrestling coach, J. Robinson, said that through wrestling, we learn a great deal about ourselves: "Wrestling shows you your limits, your weaknesses, and your strengths and ultimately, you grow because of what it shows you."
I couldn't agree more.
Brock Curtis (BA'02, BEd'03) is Head Wrestling Coach at Lakehead University. He is part of a group of sports enthusiasts that hosted the 2011 OUA and CIS Wrestling Championships at Lakehead's Thunder Bay campus last February. The same group will host the CIS Championship again in 2012.