Brock wrestler Clint Kingsbury is working on campus this summer, but his plans include seeing more than the Schmon Tower.Kingsbury is heading to the Austrian Grand Prix in Gotzis, Austria and the German Senior Open in Frankfurt, Germany. The 23-year-old applied health studies student, who wrestles in the 54 kg class, was invited when an Austrian coach who was visiting Brock saw him wrestle. He says he’s both excited and nervous to be going. Despite the pressure he puts on himself to win, he plans to enjoy his two weeks in Europe, as well as the chance to wrestle in an international tournament.
“The experience itself is very rewarding,” he said. Kingsbury hopes it will help him develop as an athlete.
The German tournament is freestyle, which is how Kingsbury usually trains, but he looks forward to the Greco-style Austrian tournament, which he normally does well in. He describes his wrestling style as unorthodox, and wants to see how it will measure up against the Europeans.
He started wrestling in 1992, in Grade 9 in his hometown of Midland. He says that as soon as he saw a demonstration as an eighth grader, he fell in love with the sport.
“I knew right away I wanted to do it,” he said.
Kingsbury has won the provincial championship, and was a national medallist in many Canadian and U.S. tournaments. His highest standing as a wrestler was winning a gold medal at the Greco National Tournament. He considers his biggest accomplishment, however, to be that he can still wrestle today.
While competing at the Canadian Jr. Nationals in Calgary in 1996, Kingsbury was dropped on his head and broke his neck.
“It’s a terrifying moment when you’re willing yourself to move, and can’t,” he said.
For the first four days after the accident, Kingsbury was completely paralyzed. When he regained some movement, doctors told him that he would likely be unable to walk. Once he started to walk, he was told that he wouldn’t wrestle. Kingsbury proved his doctors wrong once again, and went on to place seventh in freestyle and fifth in Greco at the U.S. Junior Open in 1997 — only a little more than a year after his accident.
“[It was] completely will power that got me there,” he said. He still has plates and screws in his neck, which have given him arthritis.
By April 1997, he says he knew he wanted to get back into wrestling. He had been training in Toronto to stay in shape, and with some encouragement, decided to enter the senior national tournament. When he came in fourth in Greco, he says he knew he was back.
He says that he has proven it takes more than a broken neck to keep him from doing what he loves. The accident did change him, he says, but for the better because he now “fights with a lot of heart.”
After wrestling in high school, he trained in Toronto for a year, then went to Montreal when he was scouted by Russian coach Victor Zilberman. Kingsbury credits Zilberman with much of his growth as an athlete. In 2000, he came to Brock and started wrestling for Brock’s championship wrestling team. He praises Brock’s well-known coaches Richard Deschatelets and Marty Calder, who he says helped him immensely. Kingsbury has settled into university, and now wants to be a teacher when he is done wrestling.
That may not be for a while however, as at 23, he has many wrestling days still ahead of him. He entertains hope for wrestling at the Worlds or Olympics, and says 27 is the usual peak for wrestlers.
While making in that elite category is a long shot, Kingsbury, who is the first high-performance athlete in his family, says he has never like to be told that “you can’t.” He feels the key to getting to the next level is increasing his “mental toughness.” He says that, physically, he’s always ready to wrestle, but hope to increase his mental toughness with Calder’s help, and experience and maturity.
— with files from Trish McLaren