Six Pack of Wrestling Warriors off to Birmingham

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A pair of cousins and an athlete who grew up in Iran have made the Australian wrestling squad of six bound for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games starting later this month.

The squad includes two cousins from NSW lining up for their cumulative fifth Commonwealth Games appearance: Jayden Lawrence, 27, and Justin Holland, 29. Lawrence, from Rossmore, is heading to his third Commonwealth Games and Holland, from Abbotsford, his second.

At Glasgow and the Gold Coast, Lawrence was knocked out of the round of 16 by the eventual gold medallist, earning him a place in the repechage.

A podium finish has, however, so far eluded him – and that’s a big motivator to medal in Birmingham.

Quite remarkably, Justin Holland returns to the Australian Games team 12 years after making his debut at Delhi in 2010, where he was knocked out in the quarter-finals.

He heads to Birmingham in peak form, having claimed the Australian title in the 57-kilogram division earlier this year.

Two Games debutants, Perth-born Tom Barns and Sydney’s Mostafa Rezaeifar, round out the Australian men’s selections.

At 39, Rezaeifar is the most experienced member of the team.

He started wrestling while growing up in Iran and what began as a skill to defend himself soon became a sporting passion.

Tom Barns, a natural sportsman, grew up playing AFL, rugby union and rowing in Perth, before turning to wrestling.

Wrestling has taken Barns, the Oceania champion who will be competing in the Freestyle 97kg division, around the world, representing Australia in several competitions.

Two female wrestlers round out the six-strong green-and-gold Games squad.

Born in the Netherlands, but now calling Sydney’s western suburbs home, Naomi de Bruine, 26, showed great promise when debuting for Australia at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

A talented athlete who won bronze for Australia in judo at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014, de Bruine took up wrestling just a year before her Commonwealth Games debut.

The other female selection is Irene Symeonidis, a versatile wrestler with experience on the international mat.

The 30-year-old Melburnian will fight in the Freestyle 57kg division and is excited to be making her Commonwealth Games debut in England.

Team Australia Chef de Mission, Petria Thomas OAM, congratulated the six wrestlers as they prepare for the ultra-tough environment of Commonwealth Games competition.

“Wrestling will be one of the most physically demanding and tactical sports in Birmingham,” she said.

“It always provides a fantastic opportunity for Australians to witness some of the most talented sportspeople from across the Commonwealth in action.”

“Our wrestlers will be facing very stiff competition from nations like India, Nigeria and South Africa, but I know they have medal potential.”

Wrestling Australia President Andrew Kanatli wished the team congratulations for qualifying and good luck in Birmingham.

“Congratulations on your qualification to Birmingham 2022,” Kanatli said.

“Believe in yourselves, the hard work you have put in to date and simply do the best you possible can to leave everything you have on the mats,”

“We wish you the best of luck and hope you have a great games.”

Combat AUS CEO Alex Vallentine expressed his excitement for the wrestling team who have been chosen to showcase their talents.

“It’s extremely exciting to now have these six Wrestling athletes named to represent Australia in Birmingham,” Vallentine said.

“there is a great mix of youth and experience, with all athletes expected to compete at a high level and showcase their talents.”

NAME EVENT AGE COMMONWEALTH GAMES STATE
Naomi De Bruine Women's Freestyle 76kg 26 2nd (2018 - Quarterfinals 76kg) NSW
Irene Symeonidis Women's Freestyle 57kg 30 Debut VIC
Tom Barns Men's Freestyle 97kg 21 Debut WA
Jayden Lawrence Men's Freestyle 86kg 27 3rd (2014 - Bronze medal final 74kg; 2018 - Repechage R2 86kg) NSW
Justin Holland Men's Freestyle 65kg 39 2nd (2010 - Quarterfinals 55kg) NSW
Mostafa Rezaeifar Men's Freestyle 57kg 29 Debut NSW

Wrestling is a battle of strength, technique and strategy in which contenders try to grapple, throw and pin their opponents to the ground by using a variety of holds.

Wrestling was on the program at every Commonwealth Games from Hamilton in 1930 through Edinburgh in 1986, but was omitted in Auckland 1990, Kuala Lumpur 1998 and Melbourne 2006.

Women’s events made their debut in Delhi in 2010.

Australia has endured a 12-year medal drought in wrestling since Delhi 2010 where Ivan Popov won gold in the men’s 120kg Greco Roman, Emily Bensted took silver in the women’s 55kg freestyle and Hassan Shahsavan won bronze in the men’s 74kg Greco Roman.

 

Commonwealth Games Wrestling medals summary by nation:

NATION GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
Canada 66 43 26 135
India 43 37 22 102
Pakistan 21 11 10 42
Australia 14 22 15 51
South Africa 13 9 11 33

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from Thursday 28 July to Monday 8 August. Wrestling events take place from Friday 5 August to Saturday 6 August. The Wrestling competitions will be held at Coventry Arena.

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