// Golden siblings put a new face on wrestling (North America > Canada)
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« on: Mar 31, 2009 10:09 PM »


Golden siblings put a new face on wrestling

By Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun
March 30, 2009

Seveh Palani gives a lift to her older brother Aso.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Vancouver SunIn the gym at Simon Fraser University, Seveh Palani easily hoists her brother Aso over her shoulder where he teeters precariously, wondering what his wily sister’s next move will be.

The golden siblings, who wrestle for Douglas College, are changing the face of the sport in B.C. as they get a headlock on success.

They both put in gold-medal performances at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships in Hampton, Va., in mid-March. Aso, 22, had five wins and no losses in the 125-pound weight class while Seveh, 19, had three wins and no losses.

While brothers often perform as teammates in wrestling, it’s less common to see male and female siblings on the circuit, says Douglas College coach Steve Rose.

Even more unique, he adds, is the fact the Palanis are Kurdish and Muslim.

Seveh takes off long dangling earrings as she gets ready to tackle her brother on the mat. This might be the only time the ultra feminine fighter doesn’t worry about her manicure or whether she messes her hair.

“You just think about winning the match,” she says. “You are thinking about your movement, about being aggressive and getting your opponent down.”

Despite having surgery on her right knee in late September due to injuries suffered while wrestling, Seveh is a wrestler to the core, drawn to the aggression of the sport and the mental games you play during a match.

“You don’t see many Muslim girls wrestling,” Seveh says. “I don’t know of any other. I think I am the only one.”

That doesn’t bother Seveh. She isn’t afraid to tamper with convention, perhaps because she has a good sense of who she is.

Outside of wrestling, she loves to shop — “I love to hang out with my friends. I like dressing up. I am a very girly-girl outside of wrestling” — and although her mother wears a headscarf as part of her Muslim faith, Seveh doesn’t. “I believe in my religion, but it doesn’t mean I have to wear a headscarf.”

Although the sport isn’t really part of the Palani family’s tradition, wrestling is the national sport of Iran, where they originate from. But few women wrestle there, due to Iran’s strict Islamic rules.

At first, Seveh says, her parents weren’t wild about her decision to get into such a masculine sport. But they accept it now and they support her.

As does her brother.

They try to keep wrestling out of their personal lives, but on the drives home from practices Aso, who has been in the sport longer and hopes one day to make it to the Olympics, will talk over the finer points with Seveh, exploring the things she needs to work on.

Aso got into the sport at Guildford Park secondary school where a younger brother, Zanah, is also wrestling. He admits that at first he wasn’t wild about his sister taking it up. Now he doesn’t mind.

“If she is going to wrestle,” he says, “I want her to be the best.”

Rose, who has been coaching since 2004, says this is the first time he has worked with a brother-sister team. He also says Aso undersells the way he helps his sister.

“He is very supportive and he cares deeply about how well she does in the sport,” he says. “I find that to be endearing.”

After his gold-medal performance in Virginia, Aso went on to win a silver medal at the senior national championships. Seveh placed a disappointing fourth at that tournament, although Rose points out that setbacks are part of this and any sport. “She is ready to keep going.”

But while they were unable to win national titles, Rose says both siblings continued to impress followers with their highly technical skills. At the collegiate championships in Virginia, Aso developed a fan following because he is so different from American wrestlers.

“He wrestles a lot with his feet,” Rose says. “He sweeps. He attacks all ends of the body, which is really uncommon for a wrestler.”

Rose says he and the Palanis are grateful that Douglas College offers a wrestling program. It is one of the few colleges to do so. It is great, too, that the program operates in partnership with Simon Fraser University, giving it greater breadth and possibilities. And as SFU coaches like Mike Jones taught him, Rose says toughness in wrestling translates into being able to handle life’s difficulties.

“There are many, many opportunities in the sport to quit. If you persevere through them, then you will persevere through difficulties in life.”

Good lessons for a brother and sister who live a good part of their lives on the mat.


© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Seveh Palani gives a lift to her older brother Aso.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

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