It takes a lot of nerve to stand up in front of people in stripped-down costumes to get slapped flat on their backs, but that’s what CanAm Wrestling wrestlers insist on bringing them joy.
“It’s like family,” said Ehva Jones, who goes by the ring name EV. “It’s wonderful 24/7.
“It can be painful and difficult, but it’s absolutely one of the best times I’ve ever had.”
Jones joined Calgary-based CanAm Wrestling just six months ago. It gave her a safe place to do what she loves.
“I’m a proud transgender wrestler,” Jones said. “I’ve been through a lot of discrimination in my life and a lot of people have criticized me, but the folks at CanAm Wrestling have been absolutely open-minded. They were the best allies.
At four foot eight, Bruce Rutter is a fierce contender in the ring. The Calgary man has been wrestling for 17 years.
“I get in this ring with guys who are six feet (tall), or my height, or 300 pounds,” Rutter said. “You think about it.
“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.”
Both Rutter and Jones have been bullied throughout their lives and both have found strength and confidence through wrestling.
“The way wrestling has helped me in my life to deal with bullying and teasing shows people that I was little and went to achieve my dream – that I always wanted when I was kid – to be a professional wrestler, and look where I’m at now,” Rutter said.
“I didn’t let teasing and bullying stop me from doing what I wanted.”
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CanAm Wrestling recently partnered with Bikers are Buddies Canada, a bullying prevention group. The groups work together to spread an anti-bullying message and program in schools and communities.
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A wrestling scholarship has been created for the Alberta Wrestling Academy, named after Calgary professional wrestler Steve Gillespie, who died two years ago.
“He was my mentor and my coach,” said Otto Gentile, CEO of Alberta Wrestling Academy.
“It’s important to me because I have two daughters, and I don’t like seeing bullying at all,” Gentile said. “It’s not necessary.
“We need to build a loving community.”
Saturday night at a wrestling event in Strathmore, Alberta, a wrestling-loving boy who was bullied received the scholarship. Gentile said it was about letting young people know that they are not alone and that there are adults who care for them and offer support.
“Being transgender is about breaking down barriers and allowing others to see that it’s more than just male and female wrestlers — there’s everyone. There’s a spectrum of us,” Jones said.
“I do my best to be a role model for the trans community. I would like to see more people at the shows.
At Saturday’s event, Rutter won the Alberta Wrestling Academy/Bikers are Buddies event and will now serve as an ambassador for the organizations anti-bullying efforts.
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