It wasn't so much a payback as a sense of accomplishment for Coquitlam's Justina DiStasio last month.
The Simon Fraser University wrestler was familiar with her opponent in the Women's College Wrestling Association (WCWA) Nationals final in Bristol, TN.
Facing Lindenwood's Kendra Lewis, whom she had faced two weeks earlier at the national duals meet and lost, DiStasio understood the challenge ahead. But despite being forced to go up a weight category this time and locking limbs with a series of tough competitors, the former B.C. high school champion proved better for it when all the pins were down.
"When she beat me at the national dual meet it was my first loss to her, and she was significantly stronger than me," recalled DiStasio, 19. "I knew I had to do something so I worked on the weights for two weeks just to build a little more muscle, to prepare for the 77 (kilogram) division."
Entering as the underdog, the fivefoot-six grappler said she felt comfortable heading into the final.
In the span of about two weeks, the gains in the weight room didn't amount to much bulk and didn't bump her out of her regular 72 kg comfort zone. It was in the extra lifts and firmed weight she could pump that provided a confidence boost, more than anything.
"I had to work a lot harder in the weight room, because that one division up means they are bigger and stronger," she said. "Kendra's like crazy strong, so I knew I needed an edge.
Mentally, if you can get an extra fiveto-10 on the bar, that really helps and I did it."
In the first round of the final, DiStasio scored points with a late takedown. She finished it quickly in the second period by blocking a low hold and turning Lewis onto her back.
That victory also cinched up DiStasio's first All-American honour, and helped the SFU women's team finish third overall.
Lewis has been a top-three grappler at the senior U.S. level.
To get to the final, the Coquitlam wrestler defeated No. 1-ranked Julia Salata of King College.
That matchup helped alleviate the pressure of heading into the WCWA spotlight.
"I was nervous (to start the semifinal) because she had improved so much from when I saw (Salata) last. It was a great match and I won by a point," she said.
When everything was done, DiStasio said she could have been better.
"I didn't wrestle my best, but I wrestled well enough to win."
In the world of wrestling, results can unfold like a yo-yo. From a high point of upsetting Lewis, DiStasio experienced the lows when she was ushered out after two swift matches a week later.
Fresh off her All-American weekend, she ran up against some tough competition at the Dave Schultz Memorial International meet in Denver.
"It wasn't a great week, when we landed in Colorado there was so much snow. I had two matches and that was it. I drew (two-time U.S. World team member) Stephany Lee to start. I didn't have anything to lose but she was tough," noted DiStasio.
Lee handed her a tough loss, and went on to beat Canadian Olympic trials champion Leah Callahan in the final.
DiStasio also came up short in her next match, an eight-minute bout with India's Gursharan Preet Kaur.
"I learn a lot more when I lose than when I win. It's a hard lesson, but it's all good," she said. "I saw the parts that need to be adjusted and I know I can work on my clutches."
Majoring in health sciences, DiStasio says when things are working well, a well-executed double leg move can end most matches in her favour. That opportunity didn't appear last week, however.
"It brings you back down and shows you that there's room for improvement," SFU head coach Mike Jones said. "She's a good athlete and she knows she can do better."
As a second-year university student, DiStasio has learned on the fly how to combine athletic and academic demands.
The defending junior national 72 kg wrestling champion will now prepare to defend her title next month in Ontario.
Success there will put her on Canada's junior team for the FILA Junior World championships in Thailand in September.
"I want to win, of course, but I really want to go to Thailand - that will be an incredible experience."
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