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Jasmine Tessier climbs back on the podium, this time at Guelph

Fresh off a silver medal performance at the 2016 OFSAA Wrestling Championships, high-school freshman Jasmine Tessier was pretty much on top of the world.

No grade nine student at Ecole Secondary Macdonald-Cartier had ever matched or bettered that feat - and this at a school that enjoyed a long and rich history of tradition in the sport.

With three years of high-school provincials still ahead, the expectations were bountiful.

In February of 2020, almost four full years later, Tessier would again earn a silver medal, this time at the OUA Championships, this time representing the Guelph Gryphons.

"I was proud of how far I had come," she said recently, back in Guelph for year two of her Criminal Justice & Public Policy studies and looking to navigate the year of the pandemic as best as she can.

It's not as though she has not faced adversity before.

"I wish my high-school career would have been a little better," she said. "I wouldn't say I hit a plateau, but there were definitely a couple of struggles with injuries."

She would also split time between both ESMC and Lasalle Secondary, opting out of the SDSSAA circuit completely in 2018-2019. Thankfully, contacts had been made a few years earlier with fellow Team Ontario representatives, opening the doors to club wrestling opportunities out of town - and some pretty unique ones at that.

"I was invited by Jeremy LaTour (former national champion at Guelph) to do some tournaments in the States that were folkstyle, not freestyle," said Tessier. "They (Guelph staff) saw that it was easy for me to develop and learn a new coaching style."

While folkstyle is quite popular south of the border, it is virtually non-existent in Canada. "In freestyle, you have 30 seconds on the ground," Tessier explained. "If you do not score a point, you stand up."

"For folkstyle, you get points for keeping your opponent on the ground. In folkstyle, you could spend an entire three minute round on the ground and never come back up. It was a little nerve wracking at first; it's a whole new style."

All of which made the success that she enjoyed that much more impressive. "I definitely felt I made an impact, winning American tournaments."

That connection to Guelph, one which flourished as Tessier completed her final two years of secondary studies in Sudbury, made for a very nice fit as the now 19 year-old looked to blend athletics and academics at the next level.

"Wrestling was definitely one of the variables in picking a university, but I did not want to pick a university based only on wrestling," she said. "I wanted to pick one based on the programs that they have, and my future."

"It just so happened that Guelph had the program that I wanted and their coaches were interested in having me join their team. It was a perfect scenario."

And one with relatively little fanfare - especially considering the way Tessier had burst on the scene back in 2016.

The truth is that the Gryphons were more than willing to go back, perhaps not quite to step one, but back, nonetheless, in developing their new recruit.

"I would say that there were not very high expectations, but the coaching staff at Guelph knew my situation," said Tessier. "They wanted to get me on a new slate and re-train me."

"I did change a little bit," she added. "I used to be almost only throwing and they pushed me to do more legwork. They tweaked and improved some of the bad habits that I had rather than changing my whole style."

More than anything, they created an environment where Tessier felt both comfortable and compelled to improve.

"It's a very positive environment, especially at tournaments," she said. "They definitely nitpick things that you do wrong, but they shine more light on things that you have done right."

"They push you to do better, but you never feel bad about losing, as long as you know that the next match, you are going to do better."

Things are certainly looking up once again for Jasmine Tessier. Even as an injury sustained at the 2020 U Sport Championships derailed her goals for the event, there remained a silver lining.

"I definitely think that my injury could not have come at a better toime, if I was going to get injured," she stated, alluding to a torn MCL and ripped ACL, ailments that were finally treated with surgery this past December.

"It's still hard. I do miss wrestling; it was such a big part of my university life. But I was very lucky to injure myself when I did." While teammates are itching to get back on the mat, Tessier can patiently complete rehab, thankful that the timeline falls directly in line with the current pandemic.

"I wasn't able to practice, but I was still able to watch my nutrition and go to the gym a little bit," she said. "But most important, our team still does zoom meetings and watches wrestling videos together."

"We talk about the technique, so we have little training videos. We still kind of have training, just not in person."

Still, given her four year climb to return back to fully elite status, Jasmine Tessier is more than capable of dealing with a delay in the Return to Play status of her sport.

She has been there before.

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