“It’s something about wrestling that really gets in your head. It is so personal, so deeply mental and challenging. I believe that being a wrestler changed my life forever.”
In 1994, Anne Guzman arrived at Western University to study Kinesiology. Little did she know that she would become a pioneer of women’s wrestling at Western.
In her freshman year, Guzman and a group of fellow residence girls expressed their interest in trying wrestling. They approached the captain of the men’s wrestling team, Michael Smith, who encouraged them to approach the team’s head coach, Ray Takahashi. The original group of twelve female students had by then dwindled to two: Anne Guzman and Angelina Pun. With Takahashi’s support, Anne became the first woman to train with the Mustangs wrestling team in 1995. “Guzman is treated just the same. She trains just like us and it is not a big deal.” Mustangs head coach Ray Takahashi said in an interview with The Gazette. In 1996, she became the first woman to be put on the wrestling team roster.
When Guzman started wrestling with the Mustangs, she only had one year of experience. Despite her minimal experience with the sport, she managed to keep up with athletes who had been training and competing since high school. Her participation in the sport encouraged other female students to join the team.
Because the sport was so young amongst varsity female athletes, there were less university-level teams with female athletes, which meant less matches. Women wrestlers could then qualify to compete in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships (CIS) without having to compete at the provincial qualifier as the men did. Despite Guzman and other female students’ participation in the sport, it wasn’t until the 2000-2001 season that Western officially recognized women’s wrestling as an official varsity team and intercollegiate sport.
After graduating in Kinesiology, Anne Guzman became a Registered Holistic Nurse, Sports Nutrition Consultant and is now a professional road cyclist who competes throughout North America and in Europe. When speaking of her experience as a wrestler and now as a professional athlete, Guzman states that “sport pushes you to a level of such deep suffering that you really see what you are made of. It’s when it’s so hard and you are so tired, like in wrestling when you can’t feel your arms or forearms, or in cycling when you can’t breath that you see what you are made of. (…) There is a satisfaction of getting up fast off the mat and right back to the centre circle, “acting” fresh to get a mental edge on the opponent and stick your hips so hard to the mat that no one can turn you over. When you push through, you see what you are capable of physically and mentally.”