Wrestling was a new sport for Omar Mubaidin, a source of fun and friends in his freshman year at Sickles High. As a member of the Gryphons junior varsity, he could learn and compete with no pressures. He did well in competition.
So well, in fact, he earned a spot on the starting varsity lineup as a sophomore. That was a personal goal achieved, but it carried a price.
"I felt pressured to win and although I had good developing skills, the pressure was something I was unaccustomed too and I couldn't get into it mentally," he said. "I couldn't get the right mind-set and actually wanted to quit. But I started working out more with the club after the season."
The "club" to which he refers is the off-season Guardian Wrestling Club, operated by coach Terry Brockland, parents and former Sickles wrestlers. With the help of Brockland and encouragement from his parents and teammates, Mubaidin saw his attitude improve. He turned in a super year as a junior, going undefeated in dual matches. He won the district championship and came just one match short of qualifying for the state tournament.
He finished his senior season third in the state tournament on March 1 at 171 pounds in the Class 2A championships. For the year, his record was 41-7 with 21 pins.
The 17-year-old Citrus Park resident will finish with a 5.86 GPA and is the salutatorian for his class.
"He has been one of the hardest workers in the practice room for four years and an excellent team leader," Brockland said. "When someone on the team misses or is late for practice, we make them stay after practice and work out more. It is a disciplinary thing, but the kids all go along with it. No matter who it is, Omar always stays late and works out with them."
Mubaidin never doubted his ability to finish third. Even when he was down by as many as three or four points in some of his tough matches, he was confident and came back.
"I didn't think I could win the state championship, but I felt third was realistic all along," he said. "Please don't think I am bragging, because it was hard work and there were some great wrestlers in the state tournament. I just believed I was capable, if I really did my best."
Mubaidin said that strong support for his athletic and academic pursuits comes from his parents: Elaine, an Italian-American from Brooklyn; and Hisham, who is from Jordan.
"I have the best of two worlds," Mubaidin said. "We are Islamic, but I have to do most of my religious studies on my own at home. I have a very busy schedule."
Between now and graduation, Mubaidin has several things on his plate, including some schoolwork that he fell behind on during the team's trip to the state tournament.
Then he is off to the University of South Florida pre-med program.
"My mind needs to catch up and my body is tired and needs some rest, so I am going to take some down time," he said.
"One thing I need to say, though, is whatever I have accomplished, it was not me alone. I have understanding teachers, skilled coaches and the best teammates around. Then there was all the support, not just from my parents, but all the parents of the team who helped."