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Growing up, Justina Di Stasio had always loved wrestling, but never imagined becoming the accomplished athlete she is today—a three-time All-American champion and member of Canada’s national senior women’s wrestling team competing at the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto.

Di Stasio, who is graduating with a bachelor of arts in English, received sponsorship to pursue wrestling at Simon Fraser University from her band, the Norway House Cree Nation in Norway House, Manitoba.

Despite her love of the sport, however, this Coquitlam resident didn’t win a single round during her first four months in the wrestling program.

“But I never thought of quitting,

I looked up to the senior women’s team—they were amazing wrestlers. I knew that if I set goals and worked hard I could be just like them.“

Her hard work paid off. She earned a position on the 2011 Canadian Junior National Team, and represented her country for the first time. She went on to win back-to-back junior national titles.

“The feeling after winning is something so special, it’s almost unexplainable,” she says. “Setting goals and meeting them really helped grow my love for the sport. I really got to see the potential I had in wrestling.”

Despite the pressures of extensive travel, she managed to meet deadlines for her many English essays and other courses, often sacrificing sleep.

“I was able to make good use of time while I was on the road,” she says.

“My two priorities in life are athletics and academics.”

After competing in the Pan Am games this summer, Di Stasio will represent Canada at the Senior World Championships and then begin training for tryouts for the Canadian Olympic team.

She plans to enroll in SFU’s fall 2016 Professional Development Program, with a goal of becoming a high school English teacher.

“I really do enjoy English and I have a passion to provide others with the same memorable intellectual experience I was fortunate to have.”

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