'30 seconds in' he heard four snaps

He remembers hearing four distinct snaps.

Eden High School wrestler and Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Zubin Gatta was coming off a winning streak.

He had just placed first at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations’ wrestling championship on Wednesday, March 8, in Ottawa and boasted a 25-0 high school record this year.

Next stop, the national championships two days later in Waterloo.

With gold and bronze medals around his neck after competing in the Canada Summer Games last August, he’s developed a reputation as a winner.

Despite his success, he says he’s at a bit of a disadvantage, competing at 56.5 kilograms in the 57.5-kilogram weight class.

In fact, he’s actually pretty used to having his back to the mat.

“I go to practice and I get beat up every day,” he said, explaining that he trains with the Brock University wrestling team.

Still, he had humble aspirations when he faced off against Treye Trotman from Western University in his junior division match at the Canadian Wrestling Championships in Waterloo on Friday.

“He’s definitely the best in my weight class right now. In the country,” Gatta told The Lake Report.

But Gatta felt he could be a top six competitor at the national competition.

When he went up against Trotman he wasn’t expecting a repeat of his winning experience at OFSAA, just a chance to stop his opponent from pushing him around.

“It was my first match at nationals,” said Gatta and it was all over “30 seconds in.”

“I popped my elbow,” he said. “I heard it really loud. And then I looked over and then I saw it.”

Gatta was on all fours defending against his opponent.

Trotman, looking for the take down, rolled to the left and took Gatta with him.

Gatta attempted to stabilize his position by placing his left hand farther from his body.

It didn’t work.

Trotman rolled over Gatta’s left side, trapping the younger wrestler’s arm between the floor and his body.

The torque on Gatta’s elbow mounted with Trotman’s motion and that’s when Gatta heard what he described as four distinct snaps.

“It was bad,” he said.

Bad enough to be his worst athletic injury and bad enough to put him in a cast for the next four to six weeks.

Gatta said it felt exactly as you might imagine it would – “getting your arm snapped behind you.” But it was more scary than painful.

What scares the young wrestler more is the long-term toll from such an injury.

Serious injuries like this one could "stay with me my whole life," making him wonder, if only briefly, it all is "worth it.”

Fears aside, he intends to keep wrestling.

“I'm going to Brock. I got accepted,” he said, adding that he’s been talking to the coaches at the university about his future weight class.

Gatta already practises with the wrestlers at Brock and feels committed to his journey as a wrestler.

He even describes his future physiotherapy like it’s meant to get him back into competitive shape.

Gatta is in Myrtle Beach now with a friend, unwinding from his victory at OFSAA and his injury at the nationals.

“I had to get used to sleeping comfortably on it,” he said.

“I'm doing everything a little bit slower than the rest of them,” he added.

Gatta remembers what happened on the mat in Waterloo pretty clearly, despite getting a little woozy at one point.

“I look up and I see the medic running over and she’s yelling at me not to look at my arm, look away,” he said.

His dad got to the mat at around the same time.

"I just tell him to tell my mom that I'm fine,” Gatta said, adding he didn’t want his mom to panic.

The medics on scene tried to pop his elbow back into place but it didn’t work, so Gatta ended up leaving in the back of an ambulance.

When they lay him down to wait for the ambulance, "everything starts going quiet and muffled,” like he was about to pass out.

“My dad was with me the whole time. He kept telling me – like – keep breathing,” Gatta said.

“It helped a lot.”

It was about five hours from injury to operation.

“It was right in the beginning of that snowstorm that we got, so the ambulance was going a little slow.”

In the summer, while competing in the summer games, Gatta sustained an injury to the same elbow while wrestling Eekeeluak Avalak in the semifinals of the men’s 52-kilogram weight class.

The latest setback is unrelated to his previous injuries, he said.

“Funny thing is this same injury happened to my brother when he was wrestling at about my age as well.”

His brother Cyrus told him to be prepared for when the cast comes off because his arm will be “pretty weak.”

He said his father Kekoo, who coaches the Brock Badgers junior wrestling team, has been very helpful and supportive.

“I'm gonna have to work really hard at the physio,” Gatta said, paraphrasing the advice of his family.

The day after his injury, Gatta hopped in a car with some friends for the 13-hour ride to South Carolina.

Despite the seriousness of his injury, he thinks he’s pretty lucky.

“There's people that have lost limbs, so I'm lucky enough that I got mine.”

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report