By Angel Tran (Sports) –
This season, four wrestlers in particular–senior Mohammad Majid, sophomores Isaiah Alford and Marcel Austin, and freshman Jackson Okereke – have been leading the team in victories, and more importantly, potential. They led the team throughout the season, and ended strong at the state meet. “We will return everyone but three guys from this year, and we are young. With the leadership of the guys in the room from this year and the talent coming in for next [year] we should be tougher and more well-rounded for the years to come,” head wrestling coach, Andrew Genrich said.
Alford has been watched since late fall with the Lincoln Journal Star tailing his season through a variety of articles. His coaches are keeping tabs as well. “Isaiah has led by example as the season has gone on,” Genrich said. “He helps his teammates with their technique, gets the team hyped up for meets/duals and is an all around good kid,”
Alford wrestled during his freshman year in 2015 at 145 pounds, but following his successful football career during the fall of 2016, Alford, who was at 175, is now wrestling at 170.
“He has lived up to what we have thought going into the season,” Genrich said, just before going into districts. After competing at districts, Genrich had a lot to say about this young athlete, “Alford and Majid really stepped up as leaders,” Genrich said. “All of the guys going we all thought had shots.” Alford competed at state, placing 7th overall in his weight class of 170. “Making it to state for wrestling is a big accomplishment from last year, not making it and having a losing record, and now being ranked in the state,” Alford said. “I thought I would make it, I was really confident in my skill set, but I had the drive to make it there.”
Majid, who also plays varsity football, played during the fall at 255 pounds, and wrestled at 245 during the season. Even early during the season, while pre-season workouts were just starting, his coach saw the potential in him early. “Mohammad is a class act. He is the perfect example when you talk about never giving up. If you just look at wins alone he won 1 match his 10th grade year and 4 last year as an 11th grader,” Genrich said. Going into districts, Majid was 30-4 and the second seed in his weight class.
“I feel great, my record is nice, I’m ready for what’s next,” Majid said.
Sophomore Marcel Austin, who wrestled as a freshman last year, is making himself known by qualifying for state. “I’m feeling great,” Austin said. “I worked hard, went to practice, and made sure I did what I can do to get there [to state]. It was a grind. Hard work and dedication.” Austin is already getting ready for next season, in track and field.
The newest member of the team, and the youngest state qualifier this year, Jackson Okereke, is beginning to turn heads as a freshman.
“He’s the most improved wrestler since this summer, and he’s still going hard in practice and not taking time off. I think he is gonna be a good wrestler this year,” Alford said at the start of the season. Even head coach Andrew Genrich saw potential in Okereke early as well. “He [Jackson Okereke] has stepped up as a 9th grader and has a great shot to reach the state tourney this year,” Genrich said as the team entered districts. And that is exactly what he did. Okereke pinned John Moulton of Creighton Prep in only 57 seconds, placing him third overall and qualifying him for the state meet from February 16th-February 18th.
“I want to thank my coaches for my season,” Okereke said, “but also my family..I had some hope [to qualify for state] but I didn’t think I would come in third at districts.”
Are there more victories and state qualifiers to come? “We will still be very young next year where we have several Club wrestlers coming in that will step right into the VR line-up…look for Lincoln High to be tough next year and years to come,” Genrich said. “It is not where you start, but how you finish. Mohammad is a perfect example of this because it might not click in a year, but are you gonna give in or overcome?” This season, there were no state qualifying returners or previous champions, so the team was new and had not yet experienced a tournament at the highly competitive state level. This did not intimidate Genrich.
“Like we talk to our wrestlers from day one, this is not our program but theirs! Our staff is just here to make them better and help them reach their goals.”