Amar Dhesi is determined to be great

Wrestling vs. Oklahoma

Knee injuries and Olympic trials won’t hinder Dhesi

Amar Dhesi is no stranger to adversity.

At the age of 20, this redshirt sophomore has already faced huge obstacles during his time at Oregon State. His sophomore year ended before it even started when he tore his ACL in a preseason wrestling tournament. This year, Dhesi was vying for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team and fell short as he finished in second place.

But Dhesi continues to get back up and do what he loves.

“I keep moving forward because of my love for the sport,” Dhesi said. “Wrestling is one of those sports where it will always be with you.”

New Territory

Dhesi, who is a native of Surrey, Canada, didn’t quite have the transition he was hoping to have his first year on campus.

“It was definitely a big transition,” Dhesi said. “It was more cultural transition coming to a small city compared to where I’m from. The wrestling wasn’t too bad, but being away from home was tough and really hit me hard.”

Head Coach Jim Zalesky noted the wrestling differences from Canada to the United States are more than what people would think.

“He wasn’t used to wrestling a long season,” Zalesky said. “We were wrestling every weekend, whereas back home, he might be wrestling every two or three weeks. The grind of the season was something he had to get used to.”

By no means was Dhesi’s freshman campaign a disappointing one. He ended up being fourth on the team in wins (27) and earned a second place finish at the Pac-12 tournament—good enough for an NCAA tournament berth. He ended up going 2-2 and missed out on placing. Even with that considered, Dhesi wasn’t going to pat himself on the back.

“The goal was never to make the NCAA tournament,” Dhesi said. “I mean, the goal was to win it. Before, I never knew what being an All-American was. All I knew was being on top of the podium was good.”

Sitting Out

With a lot of hype surrounding him heading into his second season, he tore his ACL in a preseason match in New York.

Ending his season before it even began.

“That was tough,” Dhesi said. “It was my first injury ever and it really hit me hard.”

Dhesi wanted to go back home and heal with his family—but Zalesky had different plans.

“I told him ‘Sometimes when you’re forced to sit back and watch. It makes you realize what you’ve lost and how much it means to you,’” Zalesky said.

“Coach (Zalesky) got my head right, and staying in Corvallis was obviously the right thing,” Dhesi said.

Highs and Lows

Coming into this year, Dhesi was ranked in the top ten in his weight class. There were high expectations and he started the year off strong. He won his first eleven matches and was ranked No. 5 in the heavyweight division.

Then came the Canadian Olympic Trials.

“Making the Canadian team has been my life-long dream,” Dhesi said. “It’s the highest peak in wrestling.”

Dhesi made it to the finals where he faced Korey Jarvis—a 29-year old wrestler who Dhesi describes as someone who has, “been around ever since I was a little kid.”

The finals match didn’t go as planned for Dhesi. He lost in heartbreaking fashion and lost out on a spot to compete in the Olympic Games in Brazil.

“When I got to the finals, nothing came together for me,” Dhesi said. “I really haven’t thought much about it, I try not to think about it.”

The loss crushed Dhesi and even forced him to think about giving up the sport in general.

“I was done with wrestling all together,” Dhesi said. “I made up my mind and I told my coaches I didn’t want to wrestle anymore.”

Dhesi went home to Canada for two weeks to be with family and recover from his loss.

He then received a call from Zalesky.

“I told him ‘you’re going to go through adversity,’” Zalesky said. “’All your goals are still in front of you, you can still have that Olympic dream. You can use this one of two ways: It can keep you down in the dumps or you can use it to do great things. Most champions have had tough things in their past to push them and make them good.’”

Dhesi came with the team to the Midlands championships at the end of December—but Dhesi noted he rushed back. He went 3-2 in the tournament and was upset in both of his losses and missed out on placing.

“My mind wasn’t right,” Dhesi said. “I didn’t want to wrestle and I didn’t want to go.”

After that tournament, Dhesi was determined to not let his struggles get in the way of his season.

He has won 13 out of the last 14 matches since the Midlands tournament, including a Pac-12 championship.

“I just needed time,” Dhesi said. “I told the coaches I just needed some time off to get my mind ready—which I am now. I’m feeling good and I want to wrestle.”

Hard Work Pays Off

With the NCAA tournament a week away, Dhesi knows what he needs to do and has his eyes set on the top of the podium.

“The goal is always to win it,” Dhesi said. “It always has been and always will be. I know if I wrestle my best, I can win it.”

Senior Seth Thomas noted that not only is he one of the hardest workers in the room, but he is also a great teammate.

“He is extremely hardworking and works out extra all the time,” Thomas said. “He comes in on his own and does even more work. As a teammate, he is pumping me up before my matches and is always telling me I can win. He is always there for me.”

Zalesky has seen Dhesi’s struggles this season but has commended him for overcoming the adversity and wrestling strong.

“He’s back on track, his mind is good and he is looking forward to competing again,” Zalesky said. “That’s the difference between (Dhesi) and other wrestlers—he wants to be great.”

On Twitter: @DRice1730