Ayo Adjibaba
Ayo Adjibaba
MERCERSBURG - It can be daunting to try to learn a new sport as a senior in high school, especially a sport so unique and technical as wrestling.

But for Mercersburg Academy's Ayo Adjibaba, of Chambersburg, it's been a pretty simple transition.

"Honestly, most of the wrestlers I've wrestled are better than me in terms of technique," Adjibaba said. "They've wrestled a lot longer than I have, but I guess all the other sports I've played have made me stronger than most people I go up against."

Adjibaba is one of the Blue Storm's leading running backs; he has also played baseball for most of his life and spent his first three winters at Mercersburg playing basketball.

But since he first stepped foot on campus as a freshman, head wrestling coach Nate Jacklin has been pursuing Adjibaba for his squad.

"He had the athleticism and the strength even as a ninth-grader that I knew would make him a good wrestler," Jacklin said. "Plus he's a football player, and I knew wrestling would make him a much better football player."

Another selling point in Adjibaba's decision to finally wrestle may have been the success of a former football player turned wrestler. Just last year, Mercersburg's Gerverus Flagg, who is now playing football at Georgetown University, began his wrestling career as a senior and ended up at the National Prep Tournament.

With Adjibaba being committed to play football at Hamilton College, now seemed like a good time to hone the skills used in both sports.

"I think the sports go hand-in-hand," Jacklin said.


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"Basically a wrestling takedown is the perfect football tackle, and if you're a lineman, you have to be able to use your hands and move your feet, and most successful wrestlers can hand fight and create leverage with their feet."

Despite it being just his first year as a wrestler, Adjibaba has found immediate success. Wrestling at 195 pounds, he is currently 15-4 and is leading the Blue Storm with 11 pins.

Born competitor: Ayo Adjibaba, bottom, of Mercersburg Academy practices with Mark Meloro on Tuesday. After playing football, basketball and baseball for
Born competitor: Ayo Adjibaba, bottom, of Mercersburg Academy practices with Mark Meloro on Tuesday. After playing football, basketball and baseball for the Blue Storm, Adjibaba decided to give wrestling a try. (Public Opinion/Ryan Blackwell)

Some of his biggest highlights include a title at the Independent Parochial School League Tournament; going 3-1 at the Georgetown Prep Duals Tournament; and third-place finishes at the Holloway Tournament and the Sidwell Friends Invitational.

"I remember my first win the most," Adjibaba said. "It was my first match, and it was just really fun. That was at (the Holloway Tournament), and I was so excited because it was my first tournament, and I was pretty successful."

Adjibaba has had more than just natural ability to help him be successful; he also has great teammates. His main workout partner is 170-pounder Mark Meloro, who has been wrestling for six years. Adjibaba said Meloro (12-2) has been extremely supportive in guiding him through this first year.

"I can't take that much credit for his ability, but I'm just there when we work to critique certain aspects of wrestling for him," Meloro said. "I try to help with different moves and things that may appear as little but are a huge difference when it comes to mat time situations."

The Blue Storm coaching staff has also been smart in the way they are teaching him to wrestle. In addition to Jacklin, Adjibaba works closely with assistant coach Rick Hendrickson, who focuses mainly on the middle and heavy weights.

Because of Adjibaba's natural strength and his limited amount of time, Hendrickson has utilized a different technical plan for him.

"We've intentionally kept his arsenal limited," Hendrickson said. "We've taught him just a few moves and gotten him to do those really well because he has a short timeline in terms of what he can acquire and become proficient in."

According to Hendrickson, Adjibaba's intelligence has allowed him to become so proficient in such a short period of time.

"He's a very coachable kid, and he's smart," Hendrickson said. "Academically, he's off the charts, but he's a smart athlete, too, so he doesn't make some of the first-year mistakes that you would anticipate because he stays within himself and his abilities."

In addition to his strength and smarts, Adjibaba also seems to be a born competitor. According to Jacklin, he doesn't like to lose and he never makes the same mistake twice. His teammates see that fire in his eyes, as well.

"He just wants it," Meloro said. "You can tell because he doesn't take things lightly. He just has the mentality of a winner."

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Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or larbogast@publicopinionnews.com.