People on Florida A&M University’s campus may consider Abdul Shariff a man who has his hands full. Because of his leadership skills and experience, Shariff is juggling the role of being a graduating senior and head wrestling coach.
After wrestling for four years on the team, Abdul was asked by Thomas White, the former wrestling coach, if he saw himself giving back to the team by being a coach.
“The professor needed help and I didn’t want to see any new faces,” said Shariff, 22, a political science student from Miami. “I wanted to keep the tradition of the program alive.”
In 2000, the wrestling team was brought back to the Hill by White’s vision.
Since then the team has placed 28th in nationals and 5th in regionals in 2005. The following year, the team improved to 4th place in regionals. In 2007, they placed 22nd in nationals and third in regionals.
Shariff said he is trying to live up to what White has accomplished, but he still has to be a student.
“I see his vision, and I want to keep the team on the right track,” Shariff said. “Coach Thomas is still there to guide me.”
White will serve as the administrative director of the wrestling program. In that capacity, White will focus on fundraisers, seek booster support and other duties to help the program grow.
The FAMU team is the only historically black school in its Southeastern Conference.
With the team being fairly new, Shariff said he wants his team to know that he has the experience to guide them.
Before becoming an All-American at FAMU, Shariff wrestled at Carol City High School in Miami.
In 2004, as a freshman, he placed 8th in SEC regionals. The next year, he placed 6th in and in 2006 he was 3rd .
He also placed top ten in national competitions in Grand Rapids, Mich., that year.
In December, Shariff will be graduating with honors and has already been accepted in the masters program at FAMU; he wants to be a role model for the team.
“I want to be an example. Wrestling is an avenue students can participate in and focus on school,” he said. “They can use wrestling as a motivation and put all frustrations on the mat and go back to the classroom. They can be student athletes and still excel in academics. ”
In the day, Shariff is a student like any other on campus, but by night he’s at the Campus Recreation Center coaching.
“It’s hard, but Coach Thomas told me it would be a growing experience,” Shariff said. “Failure is not an option on the mat nor in school. Every time I see a challenge I learn all the techniques needed in order to prepare for it and then I take it down like I would do an opponent “
White agrees Shariff has the desire to balance school and be a coach.
“Abdul is focused on faith, school and the program,” White said. “He has a unique balance that most people his age don’t. He took the leadership when no one else would. He knows what it’s like to be in that uniform.”
Considering Shariff’s experience, some players say that Shariff is no stranger to what it takes to be a great athlete.
Shariff is familiar with the techniques of holding, clinching and locking.
“Abdul is hands on. He gets on the mat with us. That makes him a better coach than most”, said James Brown, criminal justice student from Atlanta and team member.
Several other members of the team agree that he is a role model athlete on and off the mat.
“He showed me the door to what they do in college wrestling,” said team member Tyrose Ambrose 18, a pharmacy pre-candidate from Sacramento, Calif. “He teaches directly from his experience.”
Matthew Lumpkin 19, a freshman computer-engineering student from Fort Lauderdale agrees with Ambrose.
“In a short time I became a better wrestler from what he has taught us,” said Lumpkin, a member on the team. “I like his coaching style. He’s our friend but we know to respect what he says.”
This year the team has a 20 active wrestlers and Shariff is pleased with the team.
“Without the team there is no me, I appreciate the guys for coming and their dedication and effort,” Shariff said. “I feel like it’s going to be our best year.”