Corum, Turkey – St. Stephen native, Allyssa Cleaves, has wrestled her way to claim gold in the 2016 FISU World University Wrestling Championships, held in Turkey last week.
Cleaves, who wrestles in the 48 kg division, claimed a 4-0 victory against her opponent Anna Lukasiak of Poland to claim the title.
Cleaves advanced to the final after defeating Madalina Lingararu (Romania) 4-1 and Evin Demirham (Turkey) 7-0.
Cleaves, a graduate of St. Stephen High School who attends University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, currently trains with the UNB wrestling team and Black Bears wrestling club of Fredericton.
The world university championship tournament was a first for Cleaves, and before heading into the final match, Cleaves said she focused on her mental preparation, “thinking about what I do, what I know works for me,” she said, having never met Lukasiak in a match before.
“I had never seen this Polish girl; I had never watched any video footage on her either. The only wrestling I had seen her do was in her semifinal match,” Cleaves said.
“I really just had to focus on what I’ve been working on in practice in general and then get a feel for how strong she was, how she liked to move once I got into the match.”
Cleaves explained what works best for her is to stay calm, noting others need to get
“pumped up” and “really energetic.” With a chuckle Cleaves said she often stays calm after a match as well.
“People always make comments about how they can’t believe how calm I am when I walk out on the mat, and even after a big win I don’t tend to celebrate, so I know that that’s what I have to do is just keep myself calm, even though inside I feel extremely nervous and super anxious. I just try to keep myself calm on the outside.”
Cleaves recounts during the bout, up 4-0, Lukasiak became desperate in the final seconds and “decided to try something,” but Cleaves was quick to catch her.
“The move that she tried, I was able to catch her and put her on her back and the ref called it a pin in the last second of the match, which is also a nice way to finish the win,” Cleaves said with a chuckle.
Recalling the moments after the win, Cleaves jokingly admits she was “still in shock.”
“At the half I was up 2-0 – I realized that I could actually do it, she was beatable, and luckily I didn’t give her too much credit going into the match and didn’t sit back and let her score first.
“I was able to capitalize on some of the mistakes she made, and after I won, it was a major relief. I think I was still in shock, because I didn’t believe going in that I was going to be able to beat her.”
Cleaves explained the experience was an invaluable one, and said prior to the tournament her goal was to have a top three finish.
“I was just happy to be at the world championships; I wanted to look at it as more of an experience. I didn’t want to focus on winning or losing, so I set my goal to have a top three finish, but my main goal was to go out there and wrestle my best, and hopefully that would result in a top three finish.”
Laughing, Cleaves said within five minutes of the match her coach, Don Ryan, dialed the phone number of her former coach, Pat Zwicker (teacher and coach at St. Stephen High School) .
“I got to talk to Zwick within five minutes of wrestling my match, and that was pretty cool.”