Obifunna Ezeigbo

Obifunna Ezeigbo always had size, and for as long as he can remember he used that to play basketball in winters.

This year, the Ewing High School senior is using his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame for something new—wrestling. And he came away with a district title.

“Football is my main sport,” said Ezeigbo, who played tackle for the Ewing football team last fall. “I started to realize that wrestling has more connections to my position than basketball. I’m a person that likes to try something new. The convincing I got from my teammates and coach, I figured I might as well try wrestling. I hopped in.”

Ezeigbo has been a revelation in his first year ever wrestling. He had opened eyes with his 17-4 start as of mid-January. He split time between the 280- and 285-pond weight classes

“How many kids wrestle for years and don’t have 17 wins in a season?” asked Ewing head coach Matt Dalessio. “I have kids who’ve graduated and put everything into it and don’t have 17 wins in their career.”

Eziegbo went on to take the 220-pound title at the District 21 tournament in Wall on Feb. 16 and finished in fourth place at 220 in Region 6. He was expected to advance to the state tournament in Atlantic City starting on Feb. 28.

Dalessio said that he expected that Ezeigbo could help the Blue Devils. He’d coached him in football and liked the raw potential he saw. “I call him a man-child,” Dalessio said. “He’s 6-4 and he’s just cut.”

Ezeigbo had no experience, but he did bring some natural moves with him. He’s added technical abilities during the season, sticking with simple, but effective moves has worked.

“I usually use the simple ones that will be the most successful in my weight class,” Ezeigbo said. “I wrestle the heavy weights so they’re not as mobile to get out of them.”

Ezeigbo has adjusted to his new sport quickly, and he’s seen success early, but it hasn’t all come easily.

“The biggest challenge had to be have been all of a sudden conditioning non-stop,” Ezeigbo said. “I’m an athlete and do condition for sports. But wrestling conditioning is different than basketball and football.”

Ezeigbo is getting better with every week. It helped that he has last year’s Mercer County Tournament 220-pound champion Chris Seifert in the wrestling room to work with each practice. (Seifert was runner up in Region 6 at 285 and will also compete in Atlantic City.)

“Every single day,” Ezeigbo said. “As soon as I came to practice, they threw me in with Seifert. I think that actually helped me. I didn’t start out wrestling my way up. I wrestled the best person on the team. That’s what got me to do as well as I am. It definitely helps me improve.”

‘I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep improving. I’m not looking to lose. I want to go as far as possible.’

Ezeigbo doesn’t think he would have developed as quickly without Seifert’s help. Seifert was one of the wrestlers that convinced him to come out this season. The Blue Devils had asked him to try it the year before, and they’re thrilled to finally have him and see his improvements.

“Two of his losses came opening weekend,” Dalessio said. “Since then he’s only lost twice. He weighs about 220. He bumps up to heavyweight for most matches. I still weigh him in. He likes the challenge of going up and wrestling those big kids.”

Dalessio said this year’s team, which finished with a 7-18 record, was thinner than some previous. Despite some holes, the team had good wrestlers in its lineup. Senior James Kim picked up a tight 5-3 win at 160 pounds in Ewing’s 47-24 loss to Manville on Jan. 15. Owen Weigle is a freshman who is learning the ropes at the varsity level.

Matt Hedrick had been out with injury but will shore up the middle of the lineup at 138 or 145.

Senior Devon Kueny took third place in the regionals of the first-ever NJSIAA girls’ wrestling tournament in the 118-pound weight class on Feb. 17. The three-sport athlete qualified to compete in the finals in Atlantic City on March 1 and 2.

“She’s 12-0 or 13-0 against girls,” Dalessio said. “All the wins were pins except one. She’s a tough girl. She knows wrestling. She’s a hammer on top. She goes out and wrestles varsity for us on a guys team. She doesn’t quit.”

Ezeigbo, meanwhile, has made noise with his arrival. He’s given the Blue Devils another tough competitor in the upper weights with Seifert, and he’s been happy to contribute so much in his first season.

“I’m more of a person that does stuff for the team,” Ezeigbo said. “I like helping out the team. I definitely like getting my hand raised at the end of the match. Wrestling itself is not bad. I actually like it.”

It’s keeping him in shape for football, which he hopes to play in college. This will be his final season of wrestling. He was a little surprised initially by his success, but now it’s motivating him for a big finish.

“As of right now, I’m not looking to lose,” he said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep improving. I’m not looking to lose. I want to go as far as possible.”

Ezeigbo saus he is happy that he finally tried wrestling. He has already accomplished a lot more than many would think possible in his first two months of wrestling.

“I wonder if I’m having this much success in my first year, I wonder what I’d done if I started freshman year or earlier than that,” Ezeigbo said.