There is no easy path to the Commonwealth wrestling championships at the Western Fair Sports Centre this weekend. Athletes from far-off lands such as India, New Zealand and Nigeria used awesome amounts of air miles just to get here. Many endured security scrutiny. Some competitors, specifically from Pakistan and Bangledesh, were denied Canadian visas and forced to stay home.
Terri McNutt, a 21-year-old Kingston native and University of Western Ontario student, did not have to get on a plane or deal with the federal government to compete here. But since May, she has juggled a summer job at a campground with a daily 90-minute commute to Kingston for wrestling practice.
"My mom thought I was crazy, spending all that (gas) money to get to practice, but I think it was worth it," the third-year nursing student and Ontario University Athletics wrestling champ said.
"This is a great opportunity, a chance to represent Canada and I have never competed against international competition before. I don't know what to expect. Obviously, I know the girls from Canada, but I'm going into the unknown with the wrestlers from the other countries."
Ironically, McNutt's toughest match this week could be against someone she knows very well. She will compete in the 55-kilogram class with Londoner Andrea Ross, a Catholic Central high grad who had a strong rookie season with the powerful University of Calgary program.
"Andrea and Terri could meet in the preliminaries or they could meet in the final," said McNutt's Western and Team Canada coach, Ray Takahashi.
"Andrea beat Terri for bronze at the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) championships (in March), Terri beat her earlier in the year, so they're one-and-one against each other."
McNutt missed competing at Canadian senior nationals this year to spend time with her grandfather, who fell ill one day before she was supposed to fly to Saskatoon.
Ross was selected for next week's international Canada Cup in Guelph, but McNutt still holds hope she will be a late addition to the squad.
"Ray said that there is a way to petition me in, so hopefully that works out," she said.
Ross and McNutt are not the only local wrestlers on the Canadian team. Saunders grad Katie Patroch, now wrestling at Thunder Bay's Lakehead University, is Canada's lone entry in the 59- kg class. She was the bronze medallist in the 61-kg division at the CIS championships this year.
Takahashi is not adding up medals, but he expects the women's team will be well-represented in Sunday's medal round.
"You just don't know what a team like India is going to have," he said, "but the Canadian women are highly ranked in the world, so you have to expect we will do well."
Next summer, women's wrestling will be included in the Olympics for the first time. There will be four weight classes (48 kg, 55 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg) to go with the traditional seven men's divisions.
TEAM CANADA ROSTER
Women: Krista Wells, Kingston, Stephanie Szmiett, Sarnia (48 kg); Teresa Piotrowski, Guelph, Sasha Smith, Thorold (51 kg); Andrea Ross, London, Terri McNutt, Kingston (55 kg); Katie Patroch, London (59 kg); Tara Hedican, Guelph, Amanda Gerhart, Sault Ste. Marie (63 kg); Megan Dolan, Beamsville, Sam Johnson, Guelph (67 kg); Pam Wilson, Ennismore (72 kg). Coach: Ray Takahashi, London. Assistant: Scott Proctor, Mississauga.
Men: Frank Mensah, Brampton, Jamie Macari, St. Catharines (55 kg); Cleopas Ncube, Kingston, Ron Boucher, Oshawa (60 kg); Chris Prickett, Fergus, Ryan Weicker, St. Catharines (66 kg); Sheldon Francis, Hamilton, Paul Harrison, Oshawa (74 kg); Vakhtangi Kutsia, Scarborough, Adam Fera, Sault Ste. Marie (84 kg); Mike Neufeld, Beamsville, Victor Sprenger,Mil- ton (96 kg); Matt Coffey, Everett, Colin Miller, Port Dover (120 kg). Coach: Rob Betz, Hamilton. Assistants: John Burke, Sarnia, Marcus Niemann, Kingston.
Today: Wrestling/coaching symposium, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Catholic Central high school; Weigh-ins, 5 p.m. at Comfort Inn Hotel.
Tomorrow: Championships, sessions 1 to 3, Western Fair Sports Centre.
Sunday: Sessions 4 and 5, medal round, Western Fair Sports Centre
Information: Call 438-7203, ext. 347 or visit http://groups.msn. com/CommonwealthWrestling