After being denied the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Division II national championships in March, former Whitehall-Yearling wrestler Ana Abduljelil faces a big decision.
Abduljelil, a senior at the University of Indianapolis, had traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with four teammates to compete at the national tournament March 13 and 14, only to have the event be canceled March 12 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Abduljelil will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in exercise science, but he has a year of eligibility remaining as a result of his sophomore season ending in November 2017 because of a torn left labrum.
"I'm still debating if I should (return) or not," Abduljelil said. "A goal was to make national and it was definitely going to be my last year and I was going to focus on my education. But after (the national tournament was canceled), there's still doubt in my head of what decision I should make."
Whitehall coach Steve Pennington remains in contact with Abduljelil and understands his disappointment with the way the season ended.
"He's such a grounded kid, so I'm sure when it came to national, he was devastated (when it was canceled)," Pennington said. "But at the same time, he's smart enough and good-hearted enough to realize it was for the best. He's such a good kid. We're super proud of him."
Abduljelil, who had qualified for the national tournament at 125 pounds and was seeded fourth in his weight class, finished the season 15-7, including 9-1 at 125. For the first time in his career, he earned All-American honors, which were awarded to the eight seeds and the next two ranked wrestlers in each of the 10 weight classes.
"When I talked to him, his plan was to graduate, go for a job and start his career and wrestling would be done," Pennington said. "He said, however, with the way that (the season) ended, he does still have a little ways to wrestle. He's not making a final decision yet. I thought that if he was All-American, he was done. But with canceling the tournament, he might wrestle another year. ... It's a tough decision. There's no wrong answer."
"Being an All-American is nice and exciting, but that wasn't the goal," Abduljelil said. "I really do think that I should have won and been a national champion. (Being an All-American) is better than nothing."
Abduljelil, who has a career record of 48-35 with the Greyhounds, also qualified for the national tournament as a freshman and junior, going 1-2 at 125 and 0-2 at 133, respectively.
"We could probably manage his load and make sure that he's healthy in training and feels good," Indianapolis coach Jason Warthan said of Abduljelil possibly returning. "This is tough. He's had shoulder surgery and (his) back is always an issue. It's always there. That does weigh into (his decision). We just have to have those conversations."
As a junior, Abduljelil finished 17-12 and made first-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference at 133. He went 13-12 and was second-team all-conference at 125 as a freshman and went 3-4 in his injury-shortened sophomore season.
"He's a unique and wonderful kid," Warthan said. "He's very easy to coach, he works hard. He was having an outstanding season. He was wrestling really well at the end. We were looking forward to him wrestling at the national tournament. He had an outstanding career. He definitely left his mark."
Abduljelil earned Whitehall's second state title as a senior in 2016, finishing first at 113 in Division II. He is the last Ram to qualify for state.
Whitehall's other state champion was Gary Joseph, who finished first at 133 in 1960.
Abduljelil went 167-12 in his prep career, breaking the program record for wins previously held by 2007 graduate Corey Dulaney (160).
Abduljelil finished fifth at state at 113 as a freshman and seventh at state in the same weight class as a sophomore, but he missed the postseason his junior season with a back injury.
He remains involved with the Rams' program, training with the team and offering guidance whenever he's in town.
"That's a night that I can never forget," Abduljelil said of winning the state title. "Whenever I go back to Columbus, I always go in the wrestling room and try to help the kids there."