Like a number of Prince George’s County heavyweight wrestlers that have qualified for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s state wrestling tournament, football was Bola Adeboleybu’s first love.
Even after DuVal High School wrestling coach Cortez Hayes convinced Adeboleybu, as a sophomore, to join the wrestling team, Adeboleybu’s heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t understand the strategy.
And, also like a number of heavyweights from the county in recent years — most notably Bladensburg’s Jamal Saunders and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Tommie Boozer — Adeboleybu has the potential to turn some heads at the state tournament on Friday and Saturday at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Cole Field House.
“No,” Adeboleybu said simply when asked if he expected to win a county championship in his senior season. “I thought when I went to my senior year, I would go to counties and place third.”
But Adeboleybu won the county title — in quite dramatic fashion with a 3-2 victory against Gwynn Park’s Steven Reyes — before placing second at the Class 4A/3A South Region tournament in a 5-2 loss to Northern’s Cliff Armentrout.
“Going to regionals, it felt so good because I faced a guy who actually gave me a great level of competition,” Adeboleybu said. “The match went into double [overtime] and I feel like that loss is going to motivate me.”
Adeboleybu spent the week prior to the state tournament fine-tuning his technique and honing his conditioning. He and 126-pounder Thierno Diallo went on mile-long runs together and he worked on a handful of moves he plans to add to his arsenal before the competition stiffens.
“He needs to mentally prepare,” Hayes said. “A lot of athletes get out of touch with that ingredient that is very important, which is mentally preparing. It takes a lot of mental preparation, or else you’re going to be caught out there.”
Adeboleybu was quick to credit Hayes for his turnaround regarding his opinion of wrestling. He nearly quit the sport as a sophomore, but decided to give it another try to improve his fitness. Adeboleybu fluctuated from heavyweight to 220-pounder and back to heavyweight, and now has settled into his muscular frame at roughly 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds.
“Coach Hayes is a very excellent coach,” Adeboleybu said. “He was there for me. He took me under his wing. He told me, ‘I see something very special. I’m going to make you a state championship wrestler.’
“I didn’t believe a word Coach Hayes was saying, but he’s the one who made me love the weight room and that’s when I started really liking the sport.”
The imposing grappler currently is undecided on whether he’d like to wrestle in college, but said he’s looking at schools in California and Ohio. He’s hoping to cap an unlikely wrestling tenure in an equally unlikely fashion.
“That would make me believe that even if you were a two-year wrestler, all you have to do is work hard and you can accomplish things,” Adeboleybu said. “Coach Hayes, he introduced me to the sport. Now, I’m in love with it.”
Added Hayes: “Bola has come a long way. Academically and athletically. At the rate he’s going, I feel this young man is going to make Prince George’s County proud. I’m very proud of him and where he’s come from and where he’s going.”