DEARBORN – Henry Ford College wrestler Aseel Almudhala was named Michigan Community College Athletic Association Wrestler of the Year at the recent conference tournament.
The HFC wrestling team was runner-up at the tournament, and Almudhala’s teammate, Vaughn Petty, finished first in his 174-pound weight class.
Almudhala (125), took first place at the tournament April 3 at Muskegon Community College. He defeated Cody Wood from St. Clair Community College.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Almudhala, of Dearborn. “It shows me that I worked hard and it’s starting to pay off. In this sport, what you put into it is what you get out of it.”
“Aseel Almudhala paid his dues as a freshman, as well as during the off-season,” HFC wrestling coach Grant MacKenzie said. “He takes the sport seriously. Now he’s enjoying the fruits of his labor as a sophomore. It will be exciting to see how he competes in the national championships.”
Almudhala, Petty and their teammates will test their mettle at the 2021 NJCAA Wrestling Championships April 23 to 24 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. People can watch the meet live-stream.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s championship meet is an open event as opposed to requiring participants to qualify to attend. Some schools are not sponsoring the sport due to the pandemic.
Joining Almudhala and Petty at the championship meet are fellow Hawks: Jake Campbell (133), Shakaleb Nicholson (141), Elijah Kidder (149), Gabriel Lee (157), Logan Valente (165), Dean Elder (184), Cage Dye (197), and Michael McVay (285).
A native of Yemen, Almudhala – the second of six children – immigrated to the United States when he was 5. At Fordson High School, he wrestled all four years and played football. He was captain of the wrestling team his senior year. He graduated from Fordson in 2019.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to keep wrestling after high school,” Almudhala said. “After the state tournament my senior year, I wanted to continue doing it. I felt I still had a lot left in me.”
While Almudhala was looking at various colleges, MacKenzie contacted him and recruited him to wrestle at HFC.
“He told me that the tuition is affordable, so I can stay home and keeping doing what I love,” said Almudhala. “I gave it a try and really liked it.”
Almudhala, who speaks fluent Arabic, is scheduled to graduate from HFC this spring with his associate degree in general studies. He aspires to a career in the humanities.
He plans to transfer to Wayne State University, where he’ll continue wrestling – but not until the 2022-23 academic year. Almudhala will wrestle for the Hawks for an extra year and take additional classes.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Junior College Athletic Association has given all athletes participating in winter sports an extra year of eligibility.
“Coach MacKenzie thinks I’ll have a better chance at a Division 1 school if I stay for one more year at HFC because it’ll allow me to get more recognition,” Almudhala said. “So why not take advantage of the extra year?”