“I have never competed for Scotland in a multi-sport event before – if I can get there it would be amazing.”
At just 17, freestyle wrestler Brian Harper could be forgiven for having a long ‘I have never’ list. Yet, since taking up the sport nine years ago, the Tullibody teenager has always punched above his 54kg weight and is now on the cusp of his first Commonwealth Games.
Convinced to try the sport by his dad, it didn’t take long for the then 8-year-old to decide this was the one for him.
Harper said: “My dad told me about how he had done it when he was younger so I thought, I’ll give it a try. I wasn’t 100% sure about it the first time, but then I went again a week later and just started to enjoy it. I thought it was amazing.
“I like the physical demands of wrestling. It is one of the only sports that uses every muscle group. You need strength, speed, stamina, a guid technical ability. My first year it was just for fun as I was still young. Then I started winning tournaments and took it a bit more seriously from my second year onwards.”
A sixth year pupil at Lornshill Academy, Harper’s timetable includes Maths, Philosophy, Biology and Product Design. It also includes 5am alarm calls, 7am gym sessions at Stirling University and two hours of after school wrestling.
So what do his friends make of his extra-curricular activities?
“At first when I told my friends what I do they thought it was WWE wrestling,” smiled Harper. “That’s the same everybody thinks, but when I actually explained it to them they think it’s good. Most of my pals support me in my wrestling. They don’t peer pressure me to go out with them when I’m training. They respect that, which is good.”
Last season started strongly for Harper, winning a bronze medal for Team GB at the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) in January, but after dislocating an elbow in training in May, the teenager has been playing catch up to be ready for the English Open Championships on 22 and 23 February.
The Championships represent the final fling for Scotland’s wrestlers to set the selection standards and Harper is hitting form at just the right time.
He said: “I was training one night, done a move, landed on my hand and my elbow popped through. I had torn the ligaments off the bone in my elbow. Within a couple of days I had an MRI scan then had an operation to reconstruct my ligament and thankfully I was out for only three months.
“My first tournament back was my first competition with the new rules and at senior level. I got a gold there and at my second tournament back, then a bronze at a competition in Austria. I’ve been really happy with how it’s gone so far.”
Austria is just one of many countries where Harper has showcased his skills, with further passport stamps from France, Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland and Australia.
Down under at AYOF is Harper’s first and only experience of a multi-sport event so far and one which has given him further motivation to be starring for Team Scotland at the SECC when the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games get underway.
He added: “We were in Australia for two weeks, but only wrestled one day, so we got to watch other sports. I got a bronze medal so I was really pleased with that. Being a multi-sport event, it was different as people from other sports came to support us and we made pals. We also got to see diving, judo and badminton.
“We’ve the qualifiers in a couple of weeks. I hope to go and qualify then hopefully get picked for the team as well. I really, really want to go to the Commonwealth Games, so bad. I just want to go and get the experience.”
You can follow Brian on Twitter @BrianHarper_96
Photo Credit: Brian Harper