The gold medal in toughness goes to …
He’s never had an injury, he says. In all his years of wrestling at the highest levels against incredible opponents and winning provincial and national championships, he insists he’s escaped pretty much unscathed.
So he’s never, for example, had fingers get dislocated in a clinch?
“I get that all the time,” Ahmed Shamiya says. “I don’t even consider that an injury.”
Interesting. Not normal, but interesting. What about concussions, knee ligament tears and muscle strains, then? Ever have those?
Well, sure, but they’re not really injuries as much as inconveniences.
OK, does he suffer from bangedup ears, constant cuts, ever-present bruises on all parts of his body, black eyes and scratches? Yeah, but … We heard something about a knee, too. One that keeps locking and popping out of place even in the middle of matches. Is that true?
“I just pop it back in,” he says way too casually.
Clearly, the 22-year-old McMaster star has a level of toughness the rest of humanity — or at least most of it — doesn’t share. Though it should be pointed out that it hasn’t always been this way.
When he discovered wrestling in Grade 9 at Robert Bateman High School in Burlington courtesy of his gym teacher and former Mac wrestler, Demitrios Papadopoulos, he immediately loved it. The trouble was, he wasn’t very good.
“Actually, I was really bad,” he says. “I almost quit because I was so bad at it.”
If memory serves, he lost nine of his first 10 matches. Wasn’t tough enough, he says. Still, Papadopoulos was a formidable evangelist for the sport and convinced him he could become good if he stuck with it.
Despite no evidence to support such a thesis — at least, none Shamiya could see — he’d still arrive early to school each morning and work out in the gym to turn pudgy into muscle. He immediately saw results both physically and on the mat.
In short order he decided his goal was to qualify for OFSAA that year.
The provincial high school championships.
Which should’ve been an insane target for a guy with barely any experience. Except by the end of the season he missed by just one point.
He was devastated but was now fully committed. That summer he worked out at Mac with his coach, facing men far better than him. It was a gruelling boot camp that beat him up. But when he got back to school armed with the techniques he’d learned and the toughness he’d absorbed, he was ready.
He finished second in Ontario in Grade 11 and third in Grade 12. Then came to McMaster’s powerhouse team. In his second year he finished second in Canada. The past two years he’s won the Canadian university championship in the 74-kilogram class. He’s a favourite to win the OUA title at home — Mac hosts the provincials on Feb. 11 — and make it a triple crown at the nationals this year. Though that’s really just the appetizer.
“My main goal is to be a world and Olympic champion,” he says.
He’s not kidding. The runner-up for McMaster male athlete of the year last year wants to be on Canada’s team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Correction, he expects to be on that team.
There’s reason to believe it’s not a crazy dream. He finished fifth at the senior nationals last year. He knows he can improve upon that. Last weekend he won the elite Brock Invitational — the Marauders team that’s ranked second in the country finished second there — and earned school athlete of the week honours.
“If you shoot for the stars, you’ll land on the moon,” he says. “The moon is the Olympics.”
He’s already proved toughness won’t be an issue.
Ahmed Shamiya, McMaster wrestler, has his sights set on the some pretty lofty goals, including being an Olympic and world champion.