Olympian joins London wrestling programs

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

The London-Western Wrestling Club has pinned an Olympian as a new coach.

Saeed Azarbayjani, a 2008 member of the Canadian Beijing team, is joining the coaching staff of the London-Western Wrestling Club and as an assistant with the Western Mustangs varsity team.

Azarbayjani is still active and was an assistant coach with the Brock Wrestling Club in St. Catharines.

A native of Tehran, Iran, Azarbayjani is the holder of eight Canadian senior titles in both Greco-Roman and freestyle.

He won the gold medal at the Pan-American championship in 2006 and competed at the world championships in both styles.

"I will be coming March 1, but I'm hoping before that I'll come once or twice a week to help the team get ready for the CI's (Canadian university championship) and the junior kids get ready for the nationals. Then after March 1, I move here," Azarbayjani said.

"I'm hoping for the long term to help the London team do good and hopefully recruit some kids and even the kids we have, improve them.

"I'm pretty excited about it."

Azarbayjani is familiar with both coaching staffs. At Western, he'll be helping head coach Ray Takahashi, a three-time Olympian.

The clubs have undergone a fundraising campaign to revitalize the programs.

"It's a good opportunity for me with the coaching that was offered me," Azarbayjani said. "I knew this staff a long time. I've seen them around the tournaments and am friends with them.

"We get along pretty good and make a stronger team hopefully."

Azarbayjani will focus on working with high- performance athletes, but he won't be limited to the top-end talent.

"I can help anybody, if they show the talent, discipline and hard work," he said.

"You see the kids (who) have it. You work on them and hopefully make their dream come true."

Azarbayjani will continue to compete for "one or two years."

He's looking at the national championships and qualifying for the August world championships in Denmark.

He said staying in shape will help him as a coach.

"I think it's pretty good because you can stay in shape and wrestle with the athletes. I believe if you wrestle with the guys, it makes them better.

"It's better because whenever you wrestle with them, you know what kind of mistakes they make.

"It's better sometimes than just watching them . . . you can figure out what their weaknesses are and where their strengths are."

His move to London is part of his long-term goal of increasing his duties as a full-time coach.

"I love coaching. I'm looking to expand my coaching skills and hopefully we can get some really good athletes that can go to the Olympic Games."


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