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Set-back at Pan Am Games could be fuel to ignite Magano

Sights set on gold, Killarney student wins wrestling bronze in Mexico

For an athlete to compete on a world stage and rank in a top three placement is an accomplishment.

But when Vancouver wrestler Marc Magano returned from the FILA Cadet Pan American Games last week with a bronze medal, he couldn't help but feel disheartened.

"I was kind of disappointed," Magano said. "I've been training the whole year. I thought I would do better."

His disappointment vividly demonstrates Magano's high standards, said coach Paul Kelman. He's dedicated to his craft, passionate about his sport and he's his own biggest critic.

"Marc is a phenomenal wrestler. He beats himself up over things like this," Kelman said. "I'm not disappointed at all in his accomplishment none whatsoever."

For Magano, a grade 11 Killarney Secondary School student who began wrestling in Grade 8, his level of expectation is just how it has to be if he wants to become a pro.

"It's very hard," Magano said. "Every day you have to think about your goal, about why you're doing the things you're doing."

For Magano, the end goal is clear: get to the Olympics.

And he has what it takes, Kelman said.

"His work ethic on the mat is above and beyond any other young man I've seen in a while," Kelman said. "He's one of those rare breed of athletes."

Magano recalled the anxiety of going into his final match in Campeche, Mexico, where this year's Fila Cadet Pam Am Games hosted international athletes aged 15 to 17.

"I could see the crowds looking at my mat as my teammates cheered me on," he said. "In my head were just thoughts of years of work, dedication, sacrifice and patiencethe parties and celebrations I had missed for practice, the hours of watching and studying the offensive and defensive moves. In my mind, I was focused on the end results of standing on top of the podium with the gold medal around my neck."

As the match began, Magano realized just how difficult his goal was going to be.

In the first round, he took control of his opponents arms to setup for a takedown. His opponent reacted with a headlock. He then tried to take another shot, and Magano defended to gain the points. The first round, however, ended with his opponent winning 4-2.

In the second round, Magano used an elbow tie-up to set up a high crotch takedown. For the 120-pound Magano, the move wasn't enough to cripple his physical stronger opponent.

The match ended 3-0.

"I heard the whistle at the end of the match and thought, What did I do wrong?' I stayed kneeling on the ground, devastated."

Returning home, Magano's mom Jennifer Magano, who credits her relatives and her sons coaches for athletic and financial support, said while her son may have felt disappointed, she was incredibly proud.

"When I went to pick him up at the airport, he wasn't that happy," she said. "I told him: this isn't it. This isn't the only tournament you'll get. There will be more. I'm so proud of him. We're all so proud of him."

Kelman, one of Magano's many coaches at Raw Academy Vancouver, said for Magano, the fire has started.

"If a kid's winning and coming first all the time, there's no room for incentive," Kelman said. "Now, he's realized it takes a lot more work."

Walking off the mat after his defeat in Mexico, Magano said he received immediate encouragement.

"My teammates were there, still supporting me, telling me I worked very hard," he said. "It is just the beginning."

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Twitter: @kimiyasho