Standing just a shade under five-foot-six, 23-year-old Brianne Barry may not look all that imposing — that is unless you’re in a staredown with her across a wrestling mat.
This summer, London’s Barry will be one of more than a dozen wrestlers selected to represent Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.
The winner of five consecutive OUA titles and three silver medals at the national university level before finally claiming the CIS title in 2014, Barry started wrestling when she was a student in Grade 10 at Central Secondary School.
Her dad, Michael Barry, had been a member of the national wrestling team between 1975-84 so Brianne was no stranger to the sport.
Acting on a suggestion by Western wrestling coach Ray Takahashi — also a member of the same Canadian wrestling squad as her dad — she decided to give it a shot and has never looked back.
Earning a berth on the national squad by defeating former world bronze medallist Brittanee Laverdure at the Canadian Championships in March, Brianne’s current training regime starts with either a run or yoga session. Mid-day finds her in the gym for two-hours of weigh training followed by either sprints or work on her agility. She wraps up each day with two-hours of practice on the mat. A nice slow run on Sunday would count as day off, she said, but at this point in the game with the Games only weeks away, there isn’t too much resting.
Like judo, Brianne was drawn to the sport, in part, because it is more of a solo pursuit where an athlete needs to draw on all their talents to succeed.
“When you’re out there, its all on you. You have to give it absolutely everything so what ever you put into it, you get out of it.” Noting that every match is different, she said there are many ways to get the better of an opponent and to win, a wrestler needs to draw on their own talents to adapt to each opponents style skill and technique. “It is so dynamic of a sport overall and I love that.”
A large part of her success can be attributed not just to her physical strength, but her mental prowess and determination as well.
Out of the ring, Dad uses terms like easy going and laid back to describe his daughter. When she steps on that mat, though, it’s as if she takes on a whole new persona.
“The pitbull comes out when you put her in the arena, he said.
That’s something he knows from first hand personal experience, having attended all of her competitions over the years.
Calling her determined and tenacious, Michael said when Brianne is wrestling, she has that kind of never-say-surrender attitude no matter what.
“If there’s five seconds left and she needs a point, she’s getting a point.”
Currently sitting at the top of the ladder for a berth on the Canadian Olympic team, there will be no letting up for Brianne even after the Pan Am Games. Before competing at the Olympic trials slated for December, she is scheduled to take part in the Senior World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas, as well as travelling to Poland for a training camp and tournament there.
But for now, her focus is clearly on the games in Toronto where she will proudly wear the red and white on home turf where she is expecting every Canadian athlete to be embraced by the home town crowd.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Brianne. “Representing Canada, no matter where, is such an honour.”