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'Always been a part of my life': Wrestlers compete at championship event in Guelph

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Tristan Cako has been brawling on wrestling mats for as long as he can remember.

"You got to enjoy it, you can't force yourself to be here," he said. "You got to love it, you got to love working hard, love the grind."

The passion for the sport has passed down from one generation to the next.

“My dad was a high level wrestler, and he got me into it at a young age,” Cako told CTV News. “So it's always been a part of my life.”

When the University of Guelph wrestling team member found out that U Sports would be hosting their wrestling championships in Guelph, he was thrilled.

“It's really exciting, it's really fun to be at home competing, family and friends are all here," said Cako. "It’s a great time.”

Excitement filled the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre Saturday as 160 of the country's best wrestlers were brought together for a display of skill, determination, and sportsmanship.

“My main goal today isn't just medaling, if I medal, that's great,” said Guelph Gryphon Mary Adwarka. “It’s all about my best performance, getting out there and learning all those life skills.”

Adwarka, who has been wrestling for five years, says Saturday's event was a way for her to showcase her talent and dedication to the sport.

“Personally, I’m very thankful for my journey and the thought and everything. So just have faith in yourself, keep on going [and] give them something to talk about,” she said.

This is the first time the wrestling championships have been hosted in Guelph since 1999 years.

“It's one of our better championships,” said Mark Alfano, director of sports at U Sports. “Our individual championships are so engaging in the true meaning of amateur sport here in Canada. So we're happy to be back involved. Our priorities is really ensuring that the host is putting our student athletes first and their experience and competition as a priority. So we know that there's a great community of volunteers that come out to support everything.”

“We hosted the first national championship in wrestling 51 years ago,” said Scott McRoberts, director of athletics at the University of Guelph. “We held the first ever women's wrestling championship 25 years ago and this is the sixth time we hosted it.”

While the wrestling community has expanded in Guelph over the years, U Sports has also noticed an increased interest in the sport across Canada.

“The number of teams and the size of the teams on the women's side has really increased over the last few years…it’s great to see the number of female athletes entering into our wrestling,” Alfano said.

The university aims to host more of these championships in the future.

“We have the right venue for it and you can see we have the right support for it as well,” McRoberts said.

Cako says the months of gruelling training and preparation have led him to this moment and hopes to compete at the Senior National Championships in Ottawa in mid March.

“[I’m going to] try to win that one to make the world team but other than that, this has been it for this year. It’s just to come here and wrestle. It's been the goal all year,” he said.

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