By Kier-Christer Junos (Community Contributor)
It’s a tournament morning. Domestic happenings in the Phulka household are quiet as usual. Chanmit Phulka wakes up, eats breakfast, and mellows out. His family gives him space. Then his father will walk into the room.
“No one trains as hard as you do,” he’ll say. “You don’t just wrestle hard. It’s not about winning and losing — it’s about performing at the best of your abilities.”
Phulka’s wrestling career started at age 13 at Eugene Reimer Middle School. Now, at 22, Phulka is a decorated athlete; he’s competed internationally and has the gold medals to prove much more than just a worldly career. But he knows he wouldn’t be pulling his weight — and the gold around his neck — if it wasn’t for his passion for wrestling.
Phulka’s blood pumps for wrestling. Other than working at the family nursery, he doesn’t live as hard for anything else. Naturally, he’s enthused that Canada West recently accepted UFV’s wrestling team for what will be our inaugural wrestling season.
“I just can’t wait to get on the mat,” said Phulka. “I can’t wait to represent UFV, I can’t wait to wrestle in CIS, and I can’t wait to win the gold medal.”
According to a team newsletter, the team’s roster currently has twelve men and three women, and their pre-season exhibitions before Christmas break saw the team compete in several tournaments across Canada. The team also performed against top-ranked US wrestling programs, including the programs at Stanford University and Oregon State University.
After the holidays, the team competed in the Golden Bear Invitational Tournament. Phulka medalled with a gold without a single point scored on him.
“Chanmit Phulka competed for us last year, and is expected to be a leader on the team for us again, in the 100kg weight class,” says UFV wrestling coach Arjan Bhullar.
Freestyle wrestling, while being a team sport, is inherently singular in nature. Responsibility to meet weight class, practice techniques, and compete belongs to the athlete. But Phulka believes that the team dynamic in wrestling is stronger than in any other team sport. He believes this is because his team members acknowledge each other’s ethics in personal training.
“Sometimes, you break emotionally and physically in practice, and the only people that know are your teammates,” said Phulka. “When you get through that moment of vulnerability, teammates see you through that moment.”
Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposed the notion of flow: a mental state where a person is completely absorbed in their activity — being in the zone. In wrestling, Phulka feels that a wrestler finds flow in the death throes of a match, literally in the last minute or two.
“That’s when you know you’ve got to turn it up when you’re winning or losing,” said Phulka. “That’s when a person’s character is revealed. If you’re losing, you’re gonna to put your ass on the line and just bust your balls and try to win the match, or you’re gonna break and give up. If you’re winning, you’re gonna dig deep — even if you’re tired, even if you can’t breathe — you’re gonna dig deep and you’re going to win the match. Or you’re gonna give up late, take down, and lose. I think that’s what the flow aspect is in wrestling.”
Phulka said that wrestling coaches condition their teams for a match’s final moments by embattling them in practice. Beyond mental and physical conditioning, as well as the support he receives from coaches, teammates, and family members, Phulka knows that his successes wouldn’t have been possible without being passionate. And he believes that philosophy will always be paramount to being successful in life.