By George Brown
Kelsey Raab is beginning to make her mark internationally.
The 70-kg freestyle wrestler was in Campeche, Mexico earlier this month to compete in the Pan American Cadet Championships. She won three of her four bouts soundly, en route to the silver medal.
“I wanted to medal but it was more for the experience,” Raab said. She needs to earn points in international bouts to start the journey to qualify for a berth on Canada’s Olympic wrestling team.
While there are familiar faces across the mat in Canada, this was Raab’s first exposure to international competition.
“I didn’t know anybody I was wrestling,” she said.
Raab beat a Guatemalan in her first match, but lost her second to a Venezuelan after some confusion in scheduling. She and her coach thought they were wrestling down in the order and against an American.
“That one came up sooner than expected and I didn’t have time to prepare.”
“I’m in the wrong colour singlet, I’m not warmed up and I’m not in the right mindset. By the time I got to the mat I was flustered and grouchy.”
That wrestler, Hilary Hidalgo, went on to win the gold medal.
“I don’t feel horrible when I lose to somebody who isn’t cocky or boastful.”
“I can’t say I would have won…I would have given her a better challenge than I did.”
“I am one of the youngest on my team and I came away with a silver medal. I think that’s pretty good.”
“But next year it’s the gold medal.”
Raab’s sights are set on making the Canadian Olympic team in either 2016 or 2020. “That’s been my goal from the beginning.”
In her final bout, against American Brittany Harvey, Raab won on points in two rounds.
“She was really awkward to wrestle,” Raab explained. “She had weird balance, a weird stance and it took a long time to figure out how she moved and how I could actually get in so I could score.”
The Canadian wrestlers didn’t have a scouting report on their competitors so they were going in blind, Raab said. “You have to feel them out for yourself. You have no idea.”
Raab, 16, likes to assert herself in matches and use her opponent’s head and weight against them to create opportunities to score. “I like to catch them in their own mistakes.”
The men’s team finished third behind the USA and Mexico. The women were second, behind Mexico but ahead of the USA.