Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 | 12:30 a.m.
Olamide Ojo had never seen a wrestling match before moving to Summerlin from Nigeria last summer.
Never one to shy away from a physical challenge, the Palo Verde senior decided to give the sport a shot before he was even well versed in the rules.
"I saw a poster for wrestling on the wall, so I came to try it out," Ojo said. "I just love sports. I'd do any kind of sport. I never did wrestling before so I thought it was a good idea."
To the surprise of the rest of the Panthers wrestling team, Ojo was able to make the varsity roster before matches began and was named the team's starter at 189 pounds.
"It's rare that somebody would pick up the sport that quickly and already be able to physically handle himself and defend himself on the mat," Palo Verde coach Scott Nemcheck said. "Wrestling is the toughest sport to come into, sight unseen, and have only one year to excel. He's done that."
Through the first half of the season, Ojo has compiled the fourth-best record of any Panther, going 13-9. He will finish the season wrestling at 171 pounds.
"My first impression of the kid, I didn't think he was going to make it past the first two weeks," Palo Verde heavyweight Brian Baird said. "But he came in every day and kept pushing harder. He's one of the nicest guys I've met in my entire life, but he's also one of the meanest guys you will ever see on the mat, too."
Ojo believes was able to pick up wresting because of his background in sports. He played soccer from the age of 3 and has done competitive swimming and cycling. He also lifts weights on a regular basis.
Once the spring arrives, Ojo plans on running sprints for the Palo Verde track team.
Ojo admitted he surprised himself by having such an impact in wrestling.
"It was tough at first, but I was able to catch up pretty good," he said. "I tend to catch up pretty quick in all sports. That's something I've noticed about myself. I just like to be determined in everything I do."
Ojo plans to stay in town to attend UNLV next fall and eventually study to become a plastic surgeon. Being part of the wrestling team has made the transition to attending Palo Verde smoother.
"He's handled himself really well and the team loves him," Nemchek said. "They know it's not easy for him to fit into high school life here and being on the team is new for him. So they're all very helpful. They all rally behind him. He's been a good asset."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].