By: Graham West
Ahmed Shamiya is one of McMaster’s newest head coaches, taking the reins of the wrestling team from Nick Cipriano. Mac’s long-time former coach was a staple of the wrestling program for the past 35 years and was recently inducted into the Wrestling Canada Hall of Fame in January.
Shamiya is one of McMaster’s most decorated wrestling alumni, having helped the team win the Ontario University Athletics Championships in 2015, with many more individual accolades in his decorated career. Still competing, Shamiya most recently placed silver in the 86-kilogram category at the Canadian Senior National Championship in March.
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Shamiya knows the inner workings of the program and will apply this knowledge to how he runs things, and it will allow him to make the necessary changes to get to the next step.
“I know a lot of the things our program did really well,” Shamiya said “We’re not here just for performance but we’re here to build great people, great student-athletes and a great experience. That’s the ultimate goal. I want to continue that legacy and then just minor tweaks here and there that I think will improve the program or help the student-athletes.”
Cipriano left big shoes to fill after being named the national Coach of the Year four times, and won Mac multiple national championships, but Shamiya’s experience in Mac’s wrestling program means he shouldn’t have any issues taking over.
“It’s a little overwhelming, they’re definitely big shoes to fill, the man is a gentleman and a scholar, and he's done a lot for the program and the school in general,” Shamiya said. “The fact that I’m following him are definitely big shoes to fill, but the fact that he trusts me with the program after all that he's done gives me a lot of confidence.”
Coaching wasn’t always something on Shamiya’s mind, but is something he naturally has the capabilities to excel at because he’s always been a strong leader who was helpful to his teammates. His knowledge of the challenges student-athletes can face is going to be especially beneficial for the wrestling team going forward.
“I’ve always just had a knack for wanting to help others on the team, and I’ve always been passionate about leadership,” Shamiya said. “To be honest, I didn’t really pursue it, the opportunity just sort of fell into place. I feel like it was right place right time…You know what they say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Even though he is young, Shamiya has been mentored by Cipriano for years, transitioning from one of his athletes to his assistant coach. Although being recognized for his capabilities and earning the head coaching job has presented itself with its challenges, Shamiya is facing all of them head-on.
“It’s such a specific job with such a specific niche that having a mentor is great and Nick has been the best mentor ever, he’s helped me a lot,” Shamiya said. “It’s still a lot to adjust to all at once, although I’ve been enjoying it and embracing it, I think the fact that it all happened kind of overnight and not a slow transition into it was a good challenge.”
Passion and love for what he is doing is not something that Shamiya is short on. His love for wrestling is definitely something that will help the Marauders reach their potential during his tenure as head coach.
“It doesn’t feel like work at all, I’m spending my time doing exactly what I love, helping people that are in a great position in their lives where they’re student-athletes,” said Shamiya. “They have the opportunity to build themselves into something really good over the next few years. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m really enjoying this and it’s the job of my dreams basically.”
Shamiya may be young, but he will no doubt carry on the tremendous legacy that has preceded McMaster’s wrestling team as he himself was on many winning teams. His capabilities as a leader and knowledge of not only the program, but how wrestling itself works, will certainly lead the team on a path to gold next year.