Niagara Falls Review

Brock wrestling looks beyond borders

Marty Calder is joining the crowds of Canadians participating in cross-border shopping.

The head coach of the Brock University wrestling team has landed Fredonia, N.Y., native Carlene Sluberski to help Brock defend its Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s team title.

“She is our first international recruit,” Calder said.

For a starting point, the 21-year-old American is as good as it gets.

Sluberski started wrestling in Grade 5 for Fredonia High School. With female wrestling still in its infancy in New York Stater, she wrestled against boys in high school and in her senior year, she placed second in the 96-pound (43.2-kilogram) division. Later, she competed for the United States at the junior worlds in 2011.

She was selected to attend the U. S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University, where she trained twice a day and went to school. When USA Wrestling decided to move the training center to the University of Colorado, Sluberski decided not to relocate with the program.

“I was offered a spot there, but didn’t want to go,” she said. “I didn’t want to be in that same environment again. It was just all training and it was hard to deal with.”

Her high school coach, Alex Conti, talked to Calder, set up a visit and she toured Brock in June 2012.

“I didn’t leave myself any other options because I didn’t want to go anywhere else in the States,” she said.

Against that backdrop, it was still love at first sight.

“When I came here, it just felt right,” Sluberski said. “I loved the training – it was hard – and I loved the fact that it was a co-ed team and there was a good environment.”

There were also some world-class coaches and training partners in the room.

“There was Tonya Verbeek and Jessie MacDonald,” she said. “You can’t beat it.”

Sluberski has found the Brock wrestling room quite different than Northern Michigan.

“It was a different atmosphere because it’s all girls,” she said. “It raises the intensity when there’s guys in the room, especially when there’s people really serious about their training.”

Her biggest adjustment has been to being a Canadian student/athlete.

“It’s definitely tough. It’s hard after a practice. I don’t really want to study or do homework but I’m working on it.”

On the mat, things have gone well. In the Jan. 22 Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings, Sluberski was rated second in the 55-kliogram division, but has a recent victory over the top-ranked Brianne Berry of Western.

“She has some catching up to do but I wouldn’t be surprised if she made the senior world’s team for the U. S. in the next couple of years,” Calder said.

Sluberski had no idea how she would fare against Canadian university competition and doesn’t pay attention to the rankings.

“I’m still learning how Canada runs its tournaments and everything so I’m going to just wrestle and whatever happens, happens,” she said.

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