NOTL wrestler Gatta is gunning for Games gold

·4 min read

Niagara-on-the-Lake wrestler Zubin Gatta leaves no room for self-doubt at the 2022 Canada Niagara Games.

After placing sixth at the cadet nationals while competing in a higher weight class just a few months ago, Gatta is fixed on his goal.

“I'm not going to go into this with the expectation of less than gold,” he said in an interview.

Five days into the competition, Gatta is facing some stiff competition.

In the team match between Ontario and Nova Scotia, Tuesday afternoon, Gatta defeated his opponent, Joshua Bissett 10-0.

Team Ontario walked away from the mat with 48 points to Nova Scotia's three.

In his team match Wednesday morning, Gatta lost to his competitor, 13-12, but the team pulled off a narrow victory with a final score of 25-23, so he will continue to advance in the competition.

At 16, Gatta has been wrestling for 11 years, more than half his life.

“My dad coaches the junior Brock Badgers,” he said.

Between his father Kekoo coaching the junior Brock Badgers and his siblings, Cyrus and Farrantina, competing at a high level, he was immersed in the sport from an early age.

Now the Eden High School student has the opportunity to represent his hometown at the Canada Summer Games this week.

“I didn't go in with the best mental readiness,” he said of his experience at the cadet nationals.

About a year ago, Gatta picked up weightlifting and fell in love. He began to prioritize it and his affection for wrestling waned.

“I didn't want to go to practice, didn't want to get up early and run,” he said.

Then Gatta began practicing with the Brock varsity wrestling team and things started to turn around. Wrestling became fun again.

“Make sure you're keeping in mind that it's a sport and it's supposed to be fun,” he advises young, aspiring wrestlers.

Ever-confident, Gatta says wrestling isn’t for everyone.

“You're in a circle mat with one other guy and you're trying to rip each other's heads off,” he said.

Some are intimidated by the thought of being put on their backs by a bigger, stronger competitor, but Gatta said he doesn’t waste time worrying about it.

“I think all you can worry about is how much work you put in. And I know how much work I put in,” he said.

Gatta is a quick-to-smile, lean young man competing in the 52-kilogram weight class.

He jokes about how hard it has been to make sure he doesn't exceed his weight class.

He’s been cutting as much as possible leading up to the competition and was excited to finally indulge at his team dinner the night before his first match on Tuesday afternoon.

At first, training with the Brock varsity team was a challenge for the young Ontario high school champion.

“I'd go and I'd start training with the women's team and I’d get completely beat up. And just getting beat up every day is demoralizing,” he said.

But after a few humbling months, Gatta was off his back. He was getting pins and wins, and with that his confidence grew.

“I started hanging out with the team outside of wrestling. And it felt more like a family,” he said.

Gatta looks back on the winding journey that has led him to the Canada Summer Games and reflects on the people who helped him get here.

“Definitely my dad first,” he said without hesitation.

“He’d get me up every morning when we were prepping for OFSAA (the Ontario high school championships). And when I didn't want to run, he'd run with me, even though I know he didn't want to run either,” he added.

Gatta spoke fondly of his teammates at Brock and his coaches, Heather Sweezey and Marty Calder, as well.

As the only NOTL resident competing in wrestling at the Games, Gatta is thrilled to be representing his hometown as he makes his way out onto the mat, poised in his stance and focused on the coveted gold medal.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report