The Grind: Walid Abdullahi, North Forsyth High School wrestling
North Forsyth High School has a rich, proud tradition around its wrestling program, and the process of taking the mat for the Raiders typically starts well before wrestlers are actually in high school.
Not for Walid Abdullahi. He grew up in Forsyth County, but he didn’t participate in North’s youth wrestling program. Abdullahi figured he’d try the sport when he got to high school, partly because he thought it would be good for self-defense.
The learning curve of the sport was considerable, with the intense conditioning and the sometimes-brutal task of making weight. But four years later, Abdullahi is among the program’s best wrestlers, one of a large group of seniors that hopes to lead the Raiders deep in the postseason.
“It's tough,” Abdullahi said of wrestling. “But my dad thinks it's making me tough.”
Abdullahi had quick success in the sport, reaching the varsity level halfway through his freshman year and winning JV region at 106 pounds. He was still raw, though, using just three moves and his natural strength to get by. Abdullahi remembers a match in his first tournament, one when he was winning at first but quickly got pinned when he tried an ill-advised move and ended up on his back.
He kept improving, though, using wrestlers like Cole Tenety, Connor Carroll and Brantley Little as examples to follow. Abdullahi wrestled with varsity for the entirety of his sophomore year, recording a pin in the state championship dual match against a nationally-ranked Archer squad, and he was named All-County second team as a junior.
This season has already been a very different one for Abdullahi, based on one important factor. He’s been cutting weight since he was a freshman, going down more every year: He dropped roughly 10 pounds as a freshman, 20 as a sophomore and almost 30 as a junior, dropping down to 106 for the postseason after wrestling at 113 pounds for much of the year.
Heading into this season, though, Abdullahi weighed in at 152 pounds and told Raiders head coach Travis Jarrard that he couldn’t go down to his previous weights again. So far, he’s been wrestling at 145 and 138 pounds and plans to drop to 132. The higher weight class comes with a higher degree of difficulty, as Abdullahi sees it.
“When I was 106, I could have done any move and (it would have) probably had little consequence, because people were smaller than me, (and) I was stronger than them,” Abdullahi said. “But now we’re equally as strong, so if I try something bad, they’ll still get me on my back. So now I have to wrestle smart and do what I’m perfect at.”
Abdullahi is no longer the wrestling novice he was. He’s now at the level of the teammates he was once chasing. But he still finds himself in awe of the sport and its demands, wondering what he got himself into.
“All the time,” Abdullahi said. “I still do.”