When a controversial disqualification from a February tournament ended his high school career, Afghanistan refugee Bashir Rostami’s lingering hopes for a college scholarship hinged mainly on one major Florida freestyle event.
When it arrived Saturday, the Freedom High standout was too injured — and too physically weak — to contend.
Nursing a severe ankle sprain and feeling the physical effects of a full month of fasting (due to Ramadan), Rostami lost his only two matches Saturday at the Father Devine Qualifier — a USA Wrestling-sanctioned event — in Fort Lauderdale. Participants were seeking a spot on Team Florida, which competes in the 2023 Junior National Duals in Oklahoma this summer.
An 11-0 loss (via technical fall) to Miami’s Emmanuel Celestin was followed by an 11-1 defeat to Cape Coral’s Hansel Pompa-Mauri. Both opponents qualified for the state tournament for their respective high schools earlier this year, with Pompa-Mauri placing third at 152 pounds in Class 2A.
“He sprained his ankle in practice about two weeks ago,” Freedom coach Derrick McCoy said.
“I could just tell in his matches that he was favoring it. Actually in his last match, the referee was trying to stop it early, because he could see that (Rostami) was limping and couldn’t do much with it.”
Further affecting Rostami’s tournament preparation was his family’s adherence to Ramadan, observed globally by Muslims as a month (March 22-April 21 this year) of fasting, prayer and reflection. During that time, Rostami had a meal with his mom and five siblings before dawn each day, but wouldn’t eat again until sunset.
“Energy levels, and also add in the sprained ankle,” McCoy said. “He’s on a calorific deficit during that month, so he’s not able to eat everything. So it’s hard to balance after that and making sure his body is recovering enough.”
Rostami, whose frightful odyssey from his native country to the U.S. was chronicled in a recent Tampa Bay Times story, was forced to evacuate Afghanistan with his family when the Taliban took control of the Kabul — the nation’s capital — in the summer of 2021.
He knew precious little English when he arrived at Freedom in November 2021 and wasn’t academically eligible to wrestle that winter. This past season, he compiled a 29-1 record and won the prestigious Tony Ippolito Memorial Tournament in Brandon before a disqualification from an early-February tournament left him ineligible for the postseason.
Since his story came to light, McCoy said Newberry College — a Division II program in South Carolina — has shown heavy interest, and Rostami has applied for admission to the school. Meantime, he is seeing a doctor about the ankle and is preparing for one more showcase event: a mid-May qualifier for this summer’s U.S. Marine Corps Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“When we got back to my house after the tournament (Saturday night), he was apologizing for it,” McCoy said. “It’s like, ‘Man, you sprained your ankle, you couldn’t push any power off it.’ But he was still saying how he’s got so many people that believe in him, and he never had that in his life before.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.