SFU wrestler Jessy Sahota finds new passion on kabaddi field

The B.C. kabaddi season kicked off on Saturday, May 17, with the first tournament in Surrey on May 25 at Bell Centre Kabaddi Stadium

Kabaddi BC

Jessy Sahota (left), a former Kamagata Maru raider, attempts to win a point for his team against Azaad Kabaddi Club in Abbotsford last season. Surrey Now photo

KYLE BENNING
SURREY NOW

SURREY — Imagine a six-foot-three-inch, 255-pound shirtless beast of a man running at you full speed and your job is to tackle him. It sounds pretty frightening.

The shirtless man is Jessy Sahota, a 21-year-old Simon Fraser University student-athlete who is entering his sophomore season as a professional kabaddi raider with Dashmesh Kabaddi Club.

Sahota, a fourth-year criminology student, has been wrestling for the SFU Clan for a couple of years.

The heavyweight lost his full-ride scholarship after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) two seasons ago.

“I had to take a season off. I came back and I wasn’t 100 per cent, but I was still doing very well,” Sahota said. “When I went to talk to (my coach) about scholarship terms, he said he couldn’t give me a full-ride anymore and that I had to prove myself all over again.”

With a limited amount of time remaining on his eligibility to play at the collegiate level, the twotime national youth champion wrestler started to devote a lot more time to a sport he is familiar with kabaddi.

He used to watch tournaments with his father, who is a big fan of kabaddi, and younger brother starting at the age of five.

“One year, I couldn’t wrestle because of something to do with registration, and my dad told me that I should try kabaddi. I was kind of hesitant to try it,” Sahota admitted.

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Many kabaddi players have been known to take steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and Sahota was worried about entering the league.

Now that he has one year under his belt, he views his competitors who use steroids and PEDs in a different light.

“They can’t speak English, they’re not educated, they have no knowledge about the substances they’re taking, but they just want to play really hard and they want to win, so they make enough money to feed their families back home.

“Once you get to that pro or semi-pro level, there are going to be people who are willing to do anything to win,” Sahota said.

However, Sahota believes that the positives of playing kabaddi outweigh the negatives.

“I’ve been wrestling at the highest level in our community for the last five years,” he said. “The amount of recognition and financial stability I got from it is not nearly as close to what I get in kabaddi. In kabaddi you get paid more, you get recognized more and you get higher status within the community.”

Due to the success of his rookie season, Sahota was able to afford to pay a year of tuition at SFU after just two weekends of playing kabaddi.

Pola Sahota, Sahota’s brother, is turning pro this season and wants to emulate the success of his older brother. Pola is even filling the void left by his brother by playing for Jessy’s former team, Kamagata Maru Kabaddi Club.

Sahota is a stopper turned raider, and so is Pola, who also followed in his wrestling and training journey. The Sahota brothers are two of the handful of Canadian-born players who compete in the province. Another is Aran Hare, one of Sahota’s Dashmesh teammates.

Hare considers the B.C. kabaddi league as one of the hardest for domestic players to enter because of the demand of high-level competition at tournaments.

“B.C. is one of the most competitive leagues worldwide,” Hare said. “When you have the world’s best players already coming to play, it’s kind of hard to get in to play the sport.”

Despite being so devoted to kabaddi, Sahota is still hoping to compete as a wrestler. He is preparing for the Canadian Olympic trials, which would allow him to compete at the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The B.C. kabaddi season kicked off on Saturday (May 17). The first tournament in Surrey will be held on May 25 at Bell Centre Kabaddi Stadium, at 64th Avenue and 144th Street, Surrey.

WHAT IS KABADDI?

• A game, best described as a hybrid of tag and wrestling, that started in villages in Punjab, India.

• Played on a circular field divided into two halves, one for each team.

•  Each team has four stoppers on field in a “chain.” A team will send one raider to other team’s side of field.

•  The raider has 30 seconds after making contact with one of the stoppers to run back to his half.

•  The stopper’s job is to prevent him from crossing back to his side of the field.

•  If he makes it back, raider’s team is awarded a point.

•  If stopper prevents him from making it back, stopper’s team is awarded a point.

•  40-minute games.

•  Each team rotates between three or four raiders.

•  Full contact. No biting, scratching, eye gauging or slapping.

•  Ten tournaments in B.C. this season.

•  Anyone looking to play kabaddi can contact Jessy Sahota at 604-760-2893. He hosts an open practice on Sunday and Wednesday nights at Newton Recreation Centre.

Read more stories from Surrey Now here.

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