Built Tough

Concordia’s Wrestling Team Trains Under Former Olympian Coach Victor Zilberman

Concordia wrestlers battle it out in training on Sunday Oct. 25, 2015. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger
Concordia Stingers wrestling head coach Victor Zilberman during a practice on Sunday, Oct. 25 Photo Nikolas Litzenberger

For most elite coaches, nothing but the best is expected, and with a no-nonsense attitude, Concordia’s head wrestling coach Victor Zilberman is no exception.

At a training session, Zilberman, a former Olympian, sits on the sidelines. As a very intense coach who demands everything from his wrestlers, he yells at the athletes in between answering questions. Every time someone is caught standing or perhaps indulging in an extended break, he calls them out to get them going again. He makes sure that his wrestlers are ready for everything the sport can throw at them.

“[Victor] can be intense sometimes, but we really need that,” said Linda Morais, who took home a national gold medal for wrestling at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships in 2014. “It’s really a privilege to be working with our coaches.”

Aside from Victor, the coaching staff includes his son and former-Olympian David Zilberman, Martine Dugrenier, Rob Moore and Jason Chen. In addition to being the head coach of the wrestling team, Victor also teaches gym classes at Vanier College.

“[Victor’s] really tough on the athletes but that’s what the athletes need,” said Vincent De Marinis, another Stingers wrestler. “If you don’t have a coach that’s tough on you, that’s pushing you, then sometimes expectations don’t get reached because of that.”

Practicing technical skills is not the only thing the athletes do. As wrestling is a very athletic sport, they’re on a scheduled training regiment.

Wrestling is done three times a week, with another three days dedicated to biking, running, swimming and gymnastics to help the athletes be better conditioned for tournaments.

With a six-day regimen, it’s not just about practice, but about being the best athlete you can be. Therefore, motivation plays a key role in the training and in Victor’s job as head coach.

“When they see that the coaches are serious and motivated, then the kids are like that,” Zilberman said.

“Then we have people coming from different countries all the time,” he added. This year three athletes came all the way from Brazil to train in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “A lot of those things give motivation to the athletes.” Another student came all the way from Russia.

What helps the wrestling program produce many of their talented athletes is their recruiting system. From high school, athletes are trained with national talents; by the time they get to the university level, they’re at the top of their field.

“When they see that the coaches are serious and motivated, then the kids are like that,” — Victor Zilberman

“Obviously [we look after the] quality of coaching, we put a lot of time in it, we have very experienced coaching staff,” said Victor. “Martine [Dugrenier] is a three-time world champion. My son, David, is an Olympian, so we develop those athletes over the years.”

“[The coaches] are very tough but they’re geniuses,” said Stingers wrestler Genevieve Lamarche. “They know what works at the high levels and that’s what they’re teaching us.”

Much like some other Stingers teams, the wrestling coaches and athletes see the team as a big family that’s always working together toward the same goal. Athletes coming to Concordia to be a part of the team is not a rare occurrence. Jade Marie Dufour chose to come to Concordia from Windsor to continue wrestling and get an education.

“I came [to Concordia], I felt so welcomed,” said Dufour. “[If I] have trouble with homework, school or adjusting, [the coaches] are always there to help you and they’re like my family now.”

With efforts to remain a top program, the coaches and athletes are preparing for their first tournament of the season, which is on Nov. 1. Concordia is hosting it.

“It’s just a practice tournament,” Victor explained before speaking to one of his players, ending our interview.

That’s the key to what Zilberman and his coaching staff do: the team always comes first.