In the world of college sports, few accomplishments shine as brightly as earning the title of U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian. Luke Wandzura, a second-year student in the College of Dentistry at USask, achieved this prestigious recognition for the 2022-23 academic year. He balanced his demanding year 1 dentistry program with a commitment to the Huskies volleyball team, proving that dedication and discipline can lead to remarkable success.
Maintaining an academic average of 80% or better on over 18 credit units is no small feat. This achievement speaks volumes about his commitment to excellence, not just in sports but also in his academic pursuits. Wandzura has, throughout his academic journey, had to navigate a rigorous course load while giving his all on the volleyball court.
Wandzura, a proud graduate of St. Mary High School in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, shone academically, winning the prestigious Shurniak Memorial Scholarship for the highest admissions average to university. He began his athletic journey playing both high school and club volleyball with the Prince Albert Volleyball Club. It was there that he honed his skills and prepared himself for the competitive world of university-level sports. His journey with the USask Huskie which began in 2017 is a testament to his unwavering dedication to both academics and athletics.
His success on the university court included a record setting 11 blocks in a Canada West play-off game on March 12, 2022, against Calgary. This placed him in the top 3 of all time.
Wandzura’s approach to success is grounded in unwavering commitment and discipline. He treats his academics as if it were a full-time job, arriving at school early and leaving late, focusing solely on his tasks to free up time for his other interests. “I like to get to school at 7am and leave in the evening, trying to be strictly business the whole time while there so that I am free to do what I want when I get home” says Wandzura. He firmly believes that discipline equals freedom, emphasizing that this type of dedication allows him to enjoy his life without the looming stress of academic pressure.
Moreover, Wandzura attributes his success to the invaluable support he receives from his peers. Whether it's constant reminder emails of lab tutorials from his classmates Roba and Jo, or the positive influence of his Huskie teammates, he understands the importance of relying on a strong support system. He humbly acknowledges that his achievements, both on and off the court, are possible because he “stands on the shoulders of these metaphorical giants”.
But the path of a student-athlete isn't without its challenges. In November of 2023, Wandzura faced a significant hurdle when he tore his ACL in the fourth volleyball game of the 2023 season. A devastating injury that marked the end of his athletic career. He faced a long road to recovery and at times in those dark winter days while traversing through snow-covered campus grounds on crutches, he questioned the worth of his academic pursuits.
Considering these challenges Luke’s determination and the supportive environment at USask prevailed. Wandzura discovered that his love for his studies and the interactions with his classmates motivated him to continue. He learned the valuable lesson that an injury doesn't define one's life; and there are other aspects of life that are fulfilling without sports.
In Wandzura’s own words, "If you have a 'why' to do something, you can endure almost any 'how'." This philosophy underscores his resilience and commitment to excelling in both the academic and athletic arena.
Now with his athletic career behind him, he reflects on the impact of his involvement in sports has on his future dental career. Wandzura sees a direct correlation. Learning to accept constructive feedback, a skill he honed during his volleyball journey, has proven beneficial in the field of dentistry. Just as he didn't take critiques personally in sports, he approaches his dental education with the same open-mindedness, recognizing that learning and improvement are lifelong endeavors.
As a veteran USask athlete, Wandzura has the following sage advice for current and future athletes. “Focus on giving your absolute best in every endeavor and let go of the fear of failure; and the key to success lies in embracing the present moment.” He states.
Wandzura’s inspiring journey of tells a story of dedication, discipline, resilience, and the unwavering pursuit of excellence. Luke Wandzura's story serves as a testament to the extraordinary possibilities that can arise when a student-athlete's dedication is unwavering, and their spirit remains unbroken.
Most recently he was also awarded a CADR-NCOHR Student Research Award! This prestigious national award recognizes excellence in oral craniofacial and dental research. He will be presenting his research findings at the upcoming 2024 IADR/AADOCR/CADR General Session in New Orleans, USA in March 2024.
Wandzura states, “Personally, I used to suffer a lot of anxiety about what would happen if I bombed the next test or played terrible in the next volleyball game. But eventually I realized this sort of defeatist thinking was fruitless: not only was it making me not enjoy school or sports, but it was also hurting my performance on top of that. All I do now is try and do my absolute best on things and realize that beyond that I’m not in control of the outcome. While I used to have a lot of anxiety about how things would turn out, lately I never think about the future: it comes soon enough.”