A St. Paul’s High School graduate turned professional athlete is following a similar career path as the only Canadian male freestyle wrestler to earn a gold medal at the Olympics.
“We’ve only had one male Olympic champ ever in wrestling, Daniel Igali,” said 18-year-old Sam Pereira. “My main goal is to be an Olympian and to represent Canada at the 97 kilogram weight class.”
Pereira explained that Igali represented team Canada in the freestyle 69 kilogram category during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Igali studied at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC — the school Pereira will attend this fall.
“It will be a huge step up. It’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). I’ll get to wrestle down in the (United) States more, which will give me more competition,” Pereira said.
Right now, he’s studying at the University of Alberta on a full athletic scholarship. Pereira said the scholarship is what drove him to keep pursuing wrestling at a high level.
Pereira recently won the Canadian national junior (U20) wrestling championship in his weight class and is set to compete in the Junior Pan-American Games in Mexico City this July.
Pereira’s wrestling career, while overwhelmingly positive, has taken a toll on his body.
“I’ve been kind of injured this whole year,” Pereira said. “I had busted (lateral collateral ligaments). Just recently, I separated my shoulder like three times.”
One of those shoulder injuries occurred only a few days before national wrestling team tryouts. Fortunately, he was able to power through without causing further damage. Pereira is confident that continuing with physical rehabilitation will bring relief.
“I’m doing everything possible to get the shoulder better. Many different wrestlers have come up to me and reminded me to take care of it, because if it’s something you don’t take care of, it could end your wrestling career,” Pereira said.
Pereira plans to pursue criminology during his sophomore year. He’s exploring the possibility of becoming a police officer after graduation.
Pereira’s father, Joe Pereira, describes his son as a gentle, caring kid. He says if anything, the young athlete lacks the “killer spirit,” but is able to turn on a competitive sting when the moment calls for it.
Joe wants young athletes to know that Canada’s wrestling community is chock-full of opportunity, perhaps more so than mainstream sports such as hockey, football and soccer.
“It’s a phenomenal sport that anybody can do with virtually a very small budget,” Joe said. “Sam really hasn’t been wrestling for that long compared to other people… He got introduced to it in Grade 8 by a teacher.”
Before switching to wrestling, Pereira played AAA hockey and competed for Team Manitoba’s lacrosse team. Joe says his son’s wrestling career is in his infancy, as many high-level wrestlers peak in their late 20s and early 30s.
When living in Winnipeg, Pereira primarily trained at Schewa Wrestling Club. Joe urges young people interested in wrestling to contact the Manitoba Amateur Wrestling Association to find the nearest club. The MAWA can be reached at 204-925-5663 or by email at email@example.com
Katlyn Streilein is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She can be reached by phone at 204-697-7132 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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