It’s been a golden year for Surrey’s Amar Dhesi, who battled for top spot at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in England and the Pan American Wrestling Championships in Mexico.
In the 125kg category, he is now among the best freestyle wrestlers in the world, having placed fifth at last month’s Senior World Championships in Serbia and winning the delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics by COVID last year. Buoyed by recent international results on the mat, he plans to return to the Olympics in two years.
With two 2022 gold medals in hand, Dhesi has ‘come home’ to teach wrestling to the next generation of Surrey athletes.
“I moved home last month, permanently,” he explained, “so my downfall is to take time and let my body heal, because it’s been a busy year and summer. . And now I’m just focusing on this club, trying to get our numbers up and getting it going again, trying to promote the fight as much as possible.
Upstairs at the Newton Rec Center, Dhesi sat on a bench in the Randeep Sodhi Mat Room and reflected on his journey from family wrestling clubs at Oregon State University to the podiums of the whole world.
A graduate in sociology, he wants to be a policeman one day, to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Parm.
But right now wrestling is on his mind, and he doesn’t quite like what he sees in Surrey, in terms of facilities.
“We don’t really have any other city-run wrestling facility in Surrey other than this mat room (in Newton),” Dhesi explained. “Even that, we’ve been here for 15 years and they took away one of our slots that we had on Saturdays.
“We’re trying to advocate for more facilities,” he added, “and I know it comes down to participation. But from my perspective, how are we going to involve more children in the fight if we only have one city-provided facility in all of Surrey?
Run as a non-profit organization and not a business, the Khalsa Wrestling Club was started in 1976 by Dhesi’s father, Balbir, who competed in India before immigrating to Canada. The proud Balbir, now 72, pops into the mat room at the recreation center when he can, to watch and visit Amar, Parm and fellow coaches Erfan Amiri (a champion from Iran) and Sukhan Shahal.
“We don’t want to turn a child into a world champion, but if that happens it’s a blessing,” Dhesi said. “Our motto is that not all children will be Olympic champions, but we can do our best to make the child a good human being.”
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, around 20 young wrestlers eagerly said hello to Dhesi before heading up the stairs to learn wrestling holds from him and other trainers.
The day before, as a guest at Surrey Town Hall, Dhesi received a certificate of appreciation at a council meeting, for his gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in August.
“I’ve had three meetings with the mayor in the last two months,” he said, “just to try to get the word out that wrestling has produced Olympians, world champions, champions of the Commonwealth Games, at the highest level.
“I grew up in Whalley, next to Gateway Station,” he continued. “I always say I love Surrey, and I love it, but we need to do a lot more for our next generation, and I’m advocating for wrestling because the sport has gotten me to where I am today. I know there are other recreation centers that have space available, and a carpet room doesn’t take much to build.
On September 2, Dhesi turned 27, a “veteran” age in the world of freestyle wrestling.
A biography published on the Canadian Olympic Team website notes that before his Olympic dream came true, Dhesi suffered three ACL tears in six years and underwent two reconstructive surgeries, which caused him to miss two seasons. competition for Oregon State University.
Last year’s experience of the Dhesi Games in Tokyo was remembered for a 13th place finish and strict COVID restrictions.
“It was my first Olympic Games so I don’t know otherwise,” he recalls. “We trained and weren’t allowed to leave the hotel, which was different, apart from the bus to the training center. For me personally, it was quite surreal to be there, just to see all the top athletes from all these other countries gathered there. Overall experience was good.
Coming to Paris in 2024, he is aiming for the Games podium.
“I don’t want to just go back there and just be there, I want to go back to the Olympics and be on the podium, that’s my goal – I hope to be on top of the podium,” Dhesi said. “I have more experience now. We’ll see what the future holds.
Commonwealth GamesTokyo 2020 Summer OlympicsWrestling