Center Grove wrestler Anthony Williams feels his life is most structured when he is surrounded by teammates during a practice or match.
Williams, an 18-year-old senior who starts for the Trojans varsity in the 138-pound division, sat out all of last season due to being academically ineligible.
Motivated more than ever to compete again, Williams, who qualified for the Evansville Reitz Semistate as a sophomore in the 132-pound division, is doing his best to remain eligible and, hopefully, earn a high school diploma.
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On the mat, he had posted victories in 13 of 17 matches this season prior to Saturday’s tournament at Cathedral High School.
Meanwhile, the mission to keep Williams motivated, focused and on course to graduate, has been and remains a team effort in every sense of the phrase.
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upWhat begins at home extends to the confines of the Center Grove wrestling room, into Williams’ classrooms and beyond.“Anthony’s got a lot of people pulling for him. Just a very likable kid, but we’re still a work in progress. As I told him, the most important thing to us is that he graduates,” 10th-year Trojans wrestling coach Cale Hoover said.Anthony Williams is the eldest of Maija Ogundipe’s three children. She was born in Indianapolis but moved away when she was 7 years old and returned to this area when Anthony was 2 in an attempt to provide a better environment for her son.
A single mother most of Anthony’s life, Ogundipe also adopted three foster children (two of whom are special needs), which brings her brood to six, ages 4 to 21.
“Wrestling is really important because it shows Anthony discipline and self-worth. It has really made an impact in his life. It’s like his second family.”
Williams is quick to agree, particularly when it comes to the influence of Trojans assistant coach Mike Trulock.
“It was kind of hard coming back. Now I’m getting to feel like I was as a sophomore at semistate,” Williams said. “The coaches kind of talked me back. I just decided to actually pull through and keep going.
“Coach Trulock is mostly the reason I came back. I’m glad. I’ve got a family again.”
A wrestler at Beech Grove High School in the mid-1980s, Trulock and his wife, Joetta, have two children of their own — Tyler, a 2011 Center Grove graduate who is now in the Naval Academy, and daughter, Maegan, a senior at the high school.
The couple is determined to monitor the academic progress of Williams, who wants to enter the military once he’s done at Center Grove.
“The most important thing with Anthony is him graduating high school. That is my main objective with him. The wrestling part of it is great, but I had a lot of people who helped me along the way. This is a way to pay back the sport,” Trulock said.
“The greatest thing you can do is have a positive effect on people, especially children. But it’s not just me. It’s the coaching staff, their families and the community.”
Wanting to go out on top
Hoover has had a front-row seat for Williams’ roller coaster wrestling career.By passing the required five courses during the last grading period, Williams guaranteed himself another nine weeks of athletic eligibility.“It’s been a group effort, but it was still hit or miss even midway through December. Just talking to Anthony, it’s like, ‘You’ve got to graduate,’” Hoover said.
“There have been highs and lows. You go from the high of almost being a state qualifier and just being real excited about the next two years to being ineligible and not able to compete. We tried to keep Anthony coming to practice (last season), but wrestling isn’t the most fun thing in the world, especially when you’re not going to compete in matches or get a varsity letter.”
Hoover made contact with Williams earlier this school year, letting him know the door was always open for a return.
Williams did, and both athlete and program have benefited.
Looking ahead to the upcoming postseason (the Trojans compete in the Mooresville Sectional on Jan. 30), Williams would like to take care of unfinished business by again making it to semistate.
This time Williams wants to win his weight class, compete at the State Finals in Indianapolis on Feb. 19-20 and wrestle well enough to take part in the medal ceremony afterward.
And when the time comes, bring home that much-coveted high school diploma.
THE WILLIAMS FILE
Name: Anthony Williams
Family: Mother, Maija Ogundipe; sister, Ereola, 12; brother, Isaiah, 4
Born: Danville, Illinois
Favorite TV show: “Vikings”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Riddick”
Favorite athlete: LaDainian Tomlinson
Favorite team: Michigan State University football