Daye-Finley aiming at Gold - CIS Championship at RJCC

Daye-Finley aiming at Gold - CIS Championship at RJCC

Shawn Daye-Finley remembers UNB wrestling when the UNB wrestling team shared a changing room with the swim team, had to roll half a gym worth of mats out one by one, mopped, swept and dried up – and that's before practice.

Now, as he wraps up his university wrestling career at the CIS national championships next weekend –  Feb 28 and March 1 – he's making sure the next generation of UNB wrestlers appreciate what they have.

"Sometimes I get mad at the guys who take it for granted and just show up and don't understand how far we've come," Daye-Finley said, chuckling. "Like, if they leave tape in the room I say 'This wasn't always our room.' This was a gift so they should treat it like it's a gift."

But it's the hard labour before and after practice which made Daye-Finley so attracted to come to UNB in the first place and build a program from the ground up.

"At the time, my coach back home asked me to put a list together of schools I wanted to go to and UNB wasn't on it," Daye-Finley explained. "One by one he crossed out each one and he put number four as UNB. He convinced me that coming to UNB was best for the east coast and so there was no other university program for wrestling.

"I wasn't all that strong and I was beating the UNB guys as a high school kid. So the idea was to start something for the younger wrestlers after me and create this legacy for the east coast, and now our team is half Nova Scotians. We wanted to create something special."

Last season, Daye-Finley won bronze at the CIS championships – adding to his gold in 2011 and bronze in 2009 – and followed it up with a silver at the Canadian Senior Wrestling Championships. In September, he won bronze at the Francophone Games in Nice, France.

He has his sights set on the national team and a shot at wrestling in Rio, Brazil, at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. But he said wrestling in the CIS doesn't carry as much pressure as on the world stage – which gives him a break to enjoy wrestling and have fun competing.

"As a kid growing up, the CIS is something you dream about winning," Daye-Finley said. "It's a stepping stone to greater things for us. It's all about your life goals, right? Some guys will peak for this event and that will be it for their career and then there's other guys who are looking to make the world or Olympic stage. You have to win this to go on to the next tournament."

But given the relief of pressure compared to some of his other events, Daye-Finley isn't approaching the tournament any differently. Even though he has the comforts of home, he said he'll still stay in a hotel and go through all the motions just as he would for any other tournament.

"This year being at home I really, really want to bring home the gold," he said. "I find it motivating [being at home], but I try to keep things the same. Usually all my tournaments are on the road, so I'm just going to replicate what I'm going to do on the road."

While it's Daye-Finley's last shot at another CIS gold medal, this time around it's not about him personally. But rather for coach Don Ryan who's given Daye-Finley the opportunities to excel at the sport.

"In 2011 we were one point shy of the other AUS team to win. So the two AUS teams were the top two [at the tournament]," Daye-Finley said. "That was a heartbreaker because one more match in our favour and we would have won the team title for Don.

"I've travelled the world a couple times now. So to say the least, Don has opened more doors than I knew existed. On and off the mat. Being a grad student, he was a big help to get me into the program. I owe the world to that guy. He's kept me here and was the reason I came here. He's a great coach and even better guy."