Anthony Abidin will face top-notch competition when he takes the mat in the Big 10 for Nebraska, at 133 or 141 pounds, beginning in 2013-14. But it’s unlikely that he’ll be intimidated by the impressive credentials of his opponents.
Last year, while wrestling for Nassau Community College, he finished the season ranked 12th at 133 pounds, but defeated several higher-seeded foes to reach the NJCAA national championship bout against Brandon Wright of Iowa Central. When it came time for the introductions, Abidin listened while the announcer seemingly went on and on about Wright’s achievements.
“I had a good laugh about that,” Abidin said. “My intro was pretty quick, a few tournament results and a New York state championship. And then with Wright, it was all these national championships, multiple state championships, open tournament championships. It was like, is this over yet?”
When it came down to it, resumes didn’t matter. The match was knotted at 4 in the third period, but the Long Island native earned the key takedown and rideout to prevail 7-4. He was a national champion.
“I am always in it to win,” Abidin said. “I wasn’t expected to place by most people, but I came into the tournament with a goal of at least being top three. I promised myself that I worked harder than anyone else in the bracket and if I lost it simply wasn’t meant to be. I was on my game that whole weekend and I didn’t give up an inch. I surprised myself in the end.”
His impressive showing a year after completing his high school career atop the podium at the New York States at 125 pounds got the attention of several Division I programs. In fact, he first was interested in attending nearby Hofstra. However, after a trip to Cornhusker country this past weekend, he gave his commitment to Nebraska.
“I realized that I don’t want to stay home for college. I want to get away and experience new places and new things,” he said. “On my visit to Lincoln, I fell in love with the atmosphere right away. It was a perfect fit for me. The coaches were nice and straight shooters. I got to see the football game, wrestling practice and spent time with the team. I really like how the team was – everyone’s focus was on getting better and helping the rest of the guys get better.”
There have been several people who have helped Abidin get better over the years. He mentioned Steve Hromada, who played an integral role in transforming him into a state champion at Half Hollow Hills East High. And he said he has spent countless hours working with Vougar Oroudjov, both in high school and while at Nassau, improving all aspects of his wrestling.
“I can’t thank Steve Hromada enough for all he’s done for me,” Abidin said. “And I feel the same way about Vougar. I think I’ve developed so much. I finally picked up the college wrestling style – being aggressive but being smart and knowing how to wrestle well on top. I’ve gotten better at all of those things.”
Abidin will redshirt this season at Nassau and have three years of eligibility left with the Huskers. He will no doubt put the next year to good use, including spending time on an activity that was foreign to him until recently.
“I finally started to do something called lifting,” he said with a laugh. “I never did it in high school. I really just started lifting this summer. I will put in another good year of hard work and will do everything I possibly can.”
He’s known for that. In his semifinal match against Martin Gonzalez at the NJCAA National Championships, Abidin trailed 7-2 late in the second period. He was frustrated by his opponent backing up and the fact that there was a 20 minute stop in the action as the referees and coaches tried to sort out a dispute.
“That match just about gave me a heart attack,” he said. “After the long break, I was really aggravated because I felt like my conditioning advantage was going away. I was down by five and I knew I had a lot of work to do. I kept attacking and even though I wasn’t scoring off my shots, I got three stalling points. Finally, I hit a throw-by with one second left and scored two points to win it at the buzzer 8-7. It was amazing.”
Amazing. Just like going from sixth in the county as a high school sophomore to a scholarship athlete in the Big 10 in just a few short years.