BILLERICA -- Omar Eldaly was a Shawsheen Tech freshman when fate grabbed hold of his athletic future and swept him off his feet with the force of a double-leg takedown.
Eldaly’s size and athleticism had caught the eye of Shawsheen’s legendary head wrestling coach, Mark Donovan, who is an assistant of the Rams’ football staff. So Donovan approached Eldaly about going out for the wrestling team.
After some persuading, Eldaly decided to give wrestling a try. And the Wilmington resident has gone on to pin down a lot of success on the mat.
“I remember asking him if he liked to work,” said Donovan. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ Then I said, ‘You aren’t the type of kid who takes the easy way out?’ He said, ‘No.’ So I told him, ‘Wrestling is for you.’ ”
Eldaly took his share of lumps early in his varsity career. But thanks to his work ethic, the blissful convergence of potential and talent eventually took place. Eldaly posted a stellar 46-4 record at 220 pounds as a junior last winter while placing second at the New England and All-State tournaments.
He has gotten his senior season off to strong start, winning all nine of his matches, with seven pins, at 220. Eldaly captured the Wilmington Sons of Italy Tournament crown last weekend. But his ultimate goal is to move to the top of the medal stand at the All-State and New England tournaments.
“I’m so glad coach Donovan talked me into wrestling,” said Eldaly. “It was the best decision of my life. I honestly didn’t even know what wrestling was before my freshman year. Really, my knowledge of wrestling was the WWE. But I’ve fallen in love with it. And it wasn’t love at first sight. I mean it was hard at first.
“I got my butt beat all the time as a freshman. You learn real quick there’s no place to hide on the mat. Those beatings I took made me work harder because I just wanted to beat the kids who were beating my butt. I learned a lot from getting my butt beat and here I am today.”
These days, Eldaly is the one dishing out the punishment. A 5-foot-11 burst of fury who breaks down his opponents with his tenacity and array of moves, he has been contacted by a number of colleges for wrestling, including several Division 1 schools.
Eldaly is approaching the 100-victory plateau for his varsity career. He also was a force in football for the Rams as a fullback/defensive lineman, earning a berth on the Commonwealth Athletic Conference all-star team.
“He’s one the best athletes I’ve seen come through this room,” said Donovan, who is in his 34th season as the Rams’ head coach. “He really has everything you look for in a wrestler. He’s strong as a bull. His ability to move the way he does for a big kid is really something to watch. He’s really good on his feet. He’s aggressive. He likes to apply pressure and attack.”
Eldaly’s ability to think on his feet enables him to wear his foes down by outwitting them along with outmuscling them.
This Ram tough approach to winning has served him well.
As a sophomore, Eldaly won the 220 crown at the Division 1 North Sectional. Three of Eldaly’s four losses last season came against former Lincoln-Sudbury standout Andrew Marshall, who has graduated.
“Those losses left a sour taste, but it happens,” said Eldaly. “You have to fight through adversity in this sport. It gave me incentive to work harder than ever in the off-season. I came back this year determined to have a better finish to my season.”
Shawsheen’s sectional, state, All-State and New England champs have their names displayed on a banner in the gym. Eldaly is working toward making his senior campaign a banner one.
“He’s been pretty dominant in the early going,” said Donovan. “He keeps working. He’s self-motivated. He goes in the gym every day and looks at our banners. He’s there for being a sectional champ, but he wants to get up there with our other (state, All-State and New England) champs. I tell all our kids to look at those banners. If your name isn’t on it, get it on it.”
Eldaly never takes anything for granted on the mat.
“You have to be firm in your belief that you are going to win,” said Eldaly. “You have to have that swagger. But you can’t be cocky. I never look past anyone. I give everyone my best shot.”
Eldaly’s best has helped him emerge as one the premier grapplers in the state.
“He’s one of the most high-character kids I’ve coached,” said Donovan. “He’s a great all-around kid. He’s a class act in all that he does.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi