Zahra takes home silver at U Sports wrestling championship

March 7, 2019
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
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By: Graham West

On Feb. 23, Ben Zahra placed silver in the U Sports 76-kilogram wrestling championships, but for Zahra, silver isn’t quite where he wanted to be. Although his performance earned him his fourth Pita Pit Athlete of the Week, the third-year commerce student had aspirations of topping the podium in Calgary.

The second-place finish is the second time Zahra medaled at U Sports, winning bronze last year in a convincing bronze medal match. Even though the tournament just ended, the third-year wrestler is already looking forward to training hard to achieve his goal of finishing first.

“Next year I really want to win U Sport, it’s my big goal,” Zahra said. “I was hoping to do it this year, but I had a really tough competitor from Brock [University] so it didn’t really go as well as I wanted it to, but I’m still ok with a silver. It’s good progression because last year I came third.”

Injuries were something bothering Zahra on his way to capturing silver, making his journey to the podium at the national championships and improve his finish from last year that much more impressive. Battling through the mental and physical limitations of injury made his road to nationals even more difficult.

“This year it was a little different because I was struggling with injuries a little bit, I had a rib injury and a lower back injury that I was dealing with,” Zahra said. “Last year my body felt great, it was really healthy, but this year I had to adjust my practices accordingly because I couldn’t do a lot of stuff everyone else was doing.”

One of Zahra’s main motivations on the mat is performing well for his team. Even though wrestling is an individual sport, they place as a team based on their combined performances. This plays an important role for when they’re competing, as it increases their support for each other, always being there to cheer each other on and make each other better.

“There’s this team aspect to it where if you win, you contribute to your team's overall total points and then at the end of the tournament, there's a team title for men, women and overall,” Zahra explained. “So when you’re wrestling, it’s in the back of your head and you have a lot of your teammates cheering you on, so you almost do it for them more than yourself.”

“Ultimately, it is an individual sport and you’re wrestling for yourself,” Zahra added. “But it makes the wins that much sweeter when you do it for your team and you help contribute to your team’s score.”

Zahra has been a perennial Pita Pit Athlete of the Week for the Marauder’s after he claimed his fourth title on Feb. 25. Recognizing athletes who have had notable performances every week, Zahra has regularly been named to the spotlight despite being in a sport that does not always get a lot of attention.

“It’s nice to get a free pita out of it, but I don’t really wrestle for that,” Zahra said. “It’s nice to get recognition but it’s not why I do it. I love the sport, it’s something I’ve done my whole life and those little things are nice, but overall I try not to pay too much attention to them.”

Zahra knows he does not want his wrestling career to end with university athletics as the star wrestler has his sights set on the Olympics.

“[Club] Nationals this year are in Saskatoon. I’m competing up a weight class which should be good, I’m excited,” Zahra said. “It’s actually the qualifying year for the Olympics… so this year is what gets you on the seating platform for next year’s Olympic trials. It should be a really competitive nationals for us.”

Zahra has been one of McMaster’s best wrestlers during his time here and is well on the path to getting gold at next year’s championships. With possibly a trip to the Olympics in the near future, Zahra will be a name to watch in the Marauders community as he continues to dominate the mat.

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