Wrestler’s career gets big boost in Brazil

Jenna McLatchy has a troll doll.

Jenna McLatchy has a troll doll.

She shares custody of it with several of her Canadian junior wrestling teammates.

It’s name is Troll.

They weren’t very creative.

Troll has travelled to lots of places and seen lots of things.

Wherever McLatchy and her wrestling cohorts go, Troll is along for the ride — hanging out in airport food courts, nabbing the window seat on a flight to Austria or sitting ringside for another McLatchy win.

“He’s toured most of Europe. He’s been to southeast Asia and he’s going to Scotland,” she laughed. “He gets into a lot of pictures and he gets some pretty funny looks when we put him on conveyer belts and stuff.”

Troll’s latest stop was Brazil, where he joined McLatchy at the Junior Pan American Championships in Sao Paolo.

Troll shared in McLatchy’s triumph as she rolled to victory in the 67 kilogram weight class.

The Chilliwack secondary school grad bombed Brazil’s Danielle Brandao in the opening match, downing her in two one-sided rounds.

“I got one point in the first round (two minutes), and six in the second round,” she said with a smile. “That  was different, because Latin American girls are vicious. They like to slap heads, and we actually warmed up having people slap our heads so it wouldn’t catch us off guard.”

McLatchy faced a less vicious Demi Strub in the final, dominating the American wrestler for another two-round win.

“I got five points in the first round and six in the second,” she said proudly. “Neither of them scored a single point on me and I was pulling out moves I didn’t even know I had.”

With the adrenaline still pumping, McLatchy rarely remembers details right after a match. Not until she analyzes video does she recall certain moments.  Watching video from Sao Paulo was enlightening.

“It’s actually a little boring sometimes, especially the first round against the Brazillian where there was just one point scored,” she said. “When you’re in the ring time feels different. If you’re down, two minutes flies by in two seconds. If you’re up, it seems to last forever.”

The 19-year-old’s success is astounding considering how little time she has actually spent in the sport.

Many of those she faces at the upper levels have been at it for years.

Not until she arrived at CSS in Grade 10 did McLatchy give wrestling a try, choosing it mostly because it fit well with her busy schedule.

“In middle school I played soccer and volleyball and field hockey. I played them all, but when I got to high school I couldn’t do that anymore,” she said. “I’m not the type of person who wants to give less than my full effort to something.”

McLatchy  was walking down the hall at CSS one day when she saw the solution, a display case for wrestling.

On a whim she wandered in, changing her life forever.

“I was a little embarrassed at first and I didn’t tell anyone, even my Dad, where I was after school,” she admitted. “But then I started going to different tournaments and winning. I ended up going my first two years without losing a match.”

In Grade 11 she placed third at nationals.

By Grade 12 she was good enough to make it onto a Canada Summer Games team.

By the time she graduated from CSS, Simon Fraser University was offering her an athletic scholarship.

“It was the Canada Games where I really started thinking I could go places with wrestling,” McLatchy said. “As part of that, a group of B.C. girls went Austria and Germany for training. I was good enough to get sent there in the first place and I was good enough to keep up with those other girls. That was the turning point.”

Winning the Pan Am tournament may be another of those turning-point moments — not only can McLatchy compete against the best in Canada. Now she’s starting to take down the best in the world.

“This was my last year and that was my last tournament at the junior level,” she cautioned. “Now I’m up with the big kids. In total, I’ve been doing this five years, where some of them have been doing it a lot longer. I need a lot more experience to beat them consistently.”

The learning curve at the senior level will indeed be steep.

“The people who are winning in my weight class are in their late 20’s and early 30’s,” McLatchy noted. “So, I’m going to be an underdog for a few years. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that a few of them are going to retire after the next Olympics (London, 2012), and I’ll be able to try for a spot at the 2016 Olympics (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).”

The challenge in the immediate future will be keeping the sport fun while the intensity gears up to serious-business proportions.

It helps being flown to sunny vacation destinations like Brazil.

“During school, sometimes it feels like business, and it gets a little tiring and stressful around the end of the season,” McLatchy said. “You’re missing lots of school right around exam time. But our trips are so awesome and wrestling is still really, really fun for me.”

McLatchy is currently enjoying a brief rest before throwing herself back into training.

“I have a small break,” she said. “But my mom made me weed all day to day.”

Weeding. The troll doesn’t help with that.

Follow McLatchy’s SFU wrestling exploits online at http://athletics.sfu.ca/teams/wrestling_w/

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