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Time to shine for wrestlers

GUELPH, ONT. – Nine Canadian wrestlers received their ticket to London today, as they were nominated the Canadian Olympic Team.

For the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer, Canada qualified athletes in all four women’s wrestling categories, and five of the seven men freestyle wrestling categories.

“I am very proud to welcome such a strong team of wrestlers to the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” said Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury. “They have given their everything to get to this point and I know they will make Canadians proud with their performance in London.”

“Congratulations to our Olympic wrestlers,” said Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “Your hard work and perseverance has been rewarded with the chance to compete on the sport world’s greatest stage: the Olympic Games. I look forward to seeing you in action in London.”

Dave McKay and Leigh Vierling will be at the helm of the wrestling team at the Olympic Games. Both coaches have previous Olympic experience, both leading the team to the 2008 Olympic Games. Team leaders Chris Stefopulos and John Dawson will be managing all logistical aspects surrounding the team.

The team nominated to wrestle for Canada will be headlined by reigning Olympic Champion Carol Huynh of New Hazelton, British Columbia and multiple Olympic medallist Tonya Verbeek of Grimsby, Ontario.

Huynh, who wrestles for the Calgary Dinos Wrestling Club, will attempt to defend her title in the women’s 48kg category, and qualified a year ago at the FILA Wrestling World Championships. Heading into London, Huynh boasts an impressive resume. In addition to her Olympic title, Huynh went on to win the Commonwealth Games title in India, as well as the Pan American Games title in Mexico, after taking the bronze medal at the 2010 World Championships.

“I feel very privileged and very excited to be able to represent my country again at the Olympic Games with such outstanding teammates. The last four years since becoming an Olympic Champion have gone by so quickly. However, instead of looking at the past, I think it’s important at this point in time to focus on the present to be prepared for the future. We are currently in a high volume phase and will start to taper in order to perform at our peak on the day of our competition,” said Huynh.

Verbeek has won two Oltmpic medals in the 55kg weight class, and qualified at the 2011 World Championships by winning the silver medal. Verbeek, who is also coaching the next generation of wrestlers at her local Brock Wrestling Club, won silver at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece and bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. Since February of 2008, Verbeek has been a force to reckoned with on the international wrestling scene, stepping on the podium in all but one internationally-sanctioned tournaments in which she competed. In 2012, she is still undefeated.

In the 63kg weight category, Martine Dugrenier of the Montreal Wrestling Club will be making her second trip to Olympic Games, after finishing fifth at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Since her Olympic debut in Beijing, Duregrenier won the gold medal at three consecutive World Championships in the 67kg weight category. After winning the Olympic qualifier in Orlando, Dugrenier secured an important victory at the Grand Prix of Germany.

Leah Callahan of the Calgary Dinos Club earned the right to represent Canada for the first time at Olympic Games in the 72kg weight category by winning the Olympic Trials in December.

In the men’s category, two returning Olympians will have the honor of representing Canada in London. Matt Gentry, a NCAA Champion from the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club, will be returning to the Olympic mats to improve on his Beijing performance in the 74kg weight class. At Pan American Games, Gentry twice placed third, in 2007 and 2011.

Gentry stepped on the podium in the last five international tournaments he entered, winning the top prize in the last three. In the last competition, less than two weeks ago, Gentry went on to win an international tournament in Poland, where he defeated the defending Olympic Champion.

“I would like to thank the Canadian Olympic Committee and Wrestling Canada Lutte for nominating me to the Olympic Team to represent Canada in 2012. I am proud to be representing Canada at my second Olympic Games. With the experience I gained in 2008 and my recent successes at international tournaments, I am very excited for the competition, where it is my goal to bring back a medal,” said Gentry.

Haislan Garcia will also be returning to the Olympic spotlights. Garcia, who came fifth in the 66kg weight class at the 2010 World Championships, also wrestles for the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club and is determined to improve on his 16th place from the previous Olympic Games.

At the 2010 World Championships, Garcia finished in fifth position, losing in the bronze medal dual to a strong competitor. The result at these World Championships proved that he is a serious contender heading to London and has the ability to rise to the occasion.

David Tremblay, wrestling in the lightweight class of 55kg and hailing from the Montreal Wrestling Club, won the Olympic qualifying tournament to earn his place on the Canadian Olympic team. The young wrestler who turned senior in 2010 earned podium positions in five of the last six international tournaments he entered.

Khetag Pliev, who wrestles for the Team Impact Wrestling Club, will also be making his first trip to the Olympic Games. Pliev finished second in the 96kg weight class at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Orlando. At the Pan Am games in Mexico, Pliev went on to finish third. Pliev had his breakthrough performance at the 2010 World Championships, finishing sixth.

Heavyweight Arjan Bhullar will also be making his first Olympic appearance. Bhullar won in 2010 the Commonwealth Games in India, and has been a solid competitor since then. Wrestling in the 120kg class, he placed in the Top 5 in every tournament this year.

Four personal coaches will also be in London: Paul Ragusa (Calgary Dinos Wrestling Club), Marty Calder (Brock Wrestling Club), Stan Tzogas (Team Impact Wrestling) and Victor Zilberman (Montreal Wrestling Club).

Canada has a history of success at the Olympic Games. Since 1992, Canadian wrestlers contributed to the Canadian Olympic Team medal tally at every Olympic Games, winning a total of six medals. In the history of the sport, Canadian wrestlers won 14 medals. Two Olympic medallists are active member of team nominated: Carol Huynh and Tonya Verbeek.

Since the 2008 Olympic Games, Canada has won 11 medals at World Championships, all in women’s wrestling.

The wrestling tournaments during the Olympic Games will be held from August 8 to 12. Canada did not qualify wrestlers for the Greco-roman wrestling style.