Adversity Builds Character

Freshman year, James Ogunrin realized basketball--a sport he loved--wasn't his strength, so Coach Steve Leisz asked him to pivot and try out for wrestling. It was a good thing Ogunrin did, too, as he ended up ranking in National Prep Wrestling and breaking school records.

"What I appreciate most about wrestling," Ogunrin says, "is how it builds character. You're out there by yourself one-on-one with an opponent, and it all comes down to who wants it more for that six minutes."

The week of SPC this year, Ogunrin came down with the flu. He couldn't practice the whole week before the actual competition. He was physically drained after his first match and struggled to keep from coughing or throwing up. Since he was the number-one seed in the tournament, he had a bye first round—a reward that allowed him to skip the first round and progress forward. He won the next match, which automatically placed Ogunrin in the finals.

"The finals round was hard," he recalls, "because I was already at a disadvantage. I felt weak physically. It took everything I had in me to finish off my wrestling career the way I did—literally—and I will never forget that moment of triumphing over adversity."

Though it hasn't been easy being an SPC-winning athlete and a strong student, wrestling helped James stay focused in the classroom and his grades actually improved on and off the mat.

He says his teachers were always willing to assist when he was juggling sports and academics. "As a student, I have made many strides and seen myself grow over the years, which has given me the opportunity to attend a prestigious institution like Trinity University next year." He's grateful and humbled by what he's experienced as a Knight. If he were to give advice to future Knights, it would be this: "Stay strong and never give up. You're going to face obstacles and tribulations, but once you get past them, you'll be able to look in the mirror and be proud of who you are."

Though Ogunrin excelled on the football field, he had won only one championship when he was younger, always coming up short in multiple championship games. That changed this year when the middle linebacker and his team capped off a commanding victory against Kinkaid, something that hadn't been accomplished since 2014. Ogunrin was named defensive player of the year by the Touchdown Club and signed to play with Trinity University in college. "Since I was a little kid, I always dreamed of playing college football. I feel just blessed to have this opportunity."

A role model for Ogunrin is Ray Lewis, retired NFL Hall of Famer. Ogunrin has looked up to ever since he changed positions to linebacker. "I wanted to be just like him, so I always tried to imitate how Ray Lewis did things, from wearing the same number 52 or making it a ritual to using eye black before every game," he says. Before every game or match, Ogunrin watched Ray Lewis motivational videos. "Even though I've never met him, he has taught me that pain is temporary—it won't last forever. To succeed in life, you need to show consistent effort."

--Emma Tsai

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