Wrestlers tackle adversity through a love of sport
For two Indigenous wrestlers at SFU, community support and their drive to excel keeps their passion alive as they wrap up and reflect on their athletic careers.
From the chance to compete on the national level and develop teaching skills, to honing a sense of team belonging, university athletics has given Rebekah Trudel and Justina Di Stasio an exciting range of opportunities and experiences.
Rebekah Trudel, of Métis background, never intended to become a wrestler. In high school, she was cut from volleyball try-outs and only after finishing the basketball season did she try wrestling. As the only female on her high school wrestling team, she says her first year was about surviving.
Now a history and French double major, she says the most challenging aspect of joining the university wrestling team was the intense schedule: two workouts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But the hard work paid off—she won the Canadian nationals during her first year.
Trudel says her Indigenous background provides an additional support system.
“Being Métis has given me another community, another outlet for support, and that has helped a lot,” she says. “In my community, it’s becoming more about showcasing our strong youth and our strong women.”
After experiencing multiple injuries, Trudel stepped away from wrestling in 2020. She plans on staying connected with her wrestling community by refereeing as she works towards the remaining half of her degree.
Justina Di Stasio wasn’t too keen on wrestling when she initially joined in Grade 6, but she grew to like it. And after graduating, with the help of her high school coach, she earned a place on SFU’s wrestling team.
Di Stasio, a Cree student who is completing the Professional Development Program in the Faculty of Education, says that once her outlook on the sport changed, she “fell in love with the sport and decided to take it more seriously.”
Her passion and dedication grew, culminating in a second-place finish in the 2020 Olympic Trials.
Hired as an SFU wrestling coach in 2017, Di Stasio says her culture and her coaching style complement each other.
“Both require me to be confident and proud in how I present myself,” she says. “As a Cree female athlete, I look forward to sharing my story and where I come from. As a coach, I am always trying to take what I have learned in this sport to help someone else find success in wrestling too.”
She now hopes to make the Canadian Olympic team in 2024 to compete in Paris and the university wishes her good luck in this endeavour!
Di Stasio remains most appreciative of the opportunities she has had as a wrestler at SFU.
“I have earned a university degree, traveled the world, met people who have helped me grow up and succeed, in wrestling and outside of it,” she says. “I have come a long way in this sport.”