My name is Olusegun Showunmi, I am the youngest of five children and was birthed from hardworking Nigerian immigrants. My parents sacrificed everything to provide better opportunities for my siblings and I. Growing up internet, heating and cooling, electricity, even housing itself were intermittent luxuries that could be taken away, and never taken for granted. I took solace in football and wrestling as they gave me an outlet and escape during tough situations. From a young age I always thought I would play football; my size and speed were unmatched by my peers. I loved the physicality, there was no such thing as a “juke” for me, I always looked for contact when running the ball. Prior to high school football I always had to lose weight to compete within a reasonable age group and that was a significant driver in me taking up wrestling, although I soon learned to love it dearly. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend Blair Academy, a prestigious boarding high school known for its great wrestling program. Going into high school I was certain I would play football in college and hadn’t begun to take wrestling seriously.
When I came into Blair, both of my training partners were ranked top three in the nation and they beat the living poop out of me. It was something I had never experienced before, and it was great- it pushed me to get better and I loved it. There aren’t many things that are more humbling and character building than being physically and mentally beaten in the contest of control that is wrestling. When you step out on the mat ready to engage in battle, it’s just you and your preparation vs your opponent and theirs. When you win or lose a football game the burden is spread across the team and its ability or lack thereof to be successful in playing the game as a unit. For me, winning and losing in wrestling was more pure and naked- you triumph or are beaten one on one through physical control. It’s just you and them no hoops, races, or nets, either you and your preparation were better than the body across from you or you take full accountability. It’s a different breed of self-reliance and inner trust that emerges in every wrestler in these moments of battle and it’s something I proudly carry throughout life. Similarly, respect and humility is garnered at the conclusion of the battle, when you look your opponent in the eyes and shake their hand it is understood that the overwhelming gratification of the win or the daunting disappointment of the loss that will motivate you to be better only comes as a result of both wrestlers putting themselves on the line (figuratively and literally) in the spirit of competition. It’s quite amazing that the only things needed for any man or women to compete in this minimalistic sport is guts and respect. Junior year I was getting D1 offers in both sports. I loved them both, the prospect of scoring a touchdown in front of a full D1 stadium, the external validation and perks that come with D1 football, as well as the dream of one day playing in NFL were all enticing, but internally I understood the physical chess match of wrestling was right for my soul.
I decided on Stanford because it would provide me with the education and skills needed to one day work with energy systems and because it had a strong and rising wrestling program that embodied great core values with all right people. I knew I would get to be a part of something special and I’m thankful I made the decision to wrestle at Stanford every day. Stanford wrestling has played an integral part in making me into the man I am today. This program has provided me with amazing lifelong friends, experiences, and practical skills that I’m am forever grateful for. Since graduating I’ve been designing and researching energy management systems that will help reduce greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Even in these first few months after graduating the classic mantra, “after wrestling everything else is easy” has been reputable. Some examples, while my other colleague who recently graduated misses extremely early meetings with researchers in different time zones, the remnants of morning workouts and early competition departures keeps me on track. The discipline needed to perform academically while balancing a rigorous training schedule has translated well into balancing a heavy job workload while progressing in other goals and pursuits. This is especially true in this chaotic time working from home with less than ideal structure and direction. Understanding that progress is earned through collective small steps of hard work has made any task feel minuscule and easy when compared to a long grueling wrestling season. Learning to work on a team in order to achieve a greater goal and pushing each other to be better every day in the wrestling room has propelled me and my current research team’s positive cohesiveness and outcomes.
It’s truly sickening think of a world where potential Stanford wrestlers who work so hard with the dream of one day wearing an S on their singlet will not have the opportunities that I and many other Stanford alum have cherished so dearly. It’s utterly disheartening that my current younger brothers on the team are being robbed of the Stanford wrestling experience they were promised. It’s my hope that the university will work with Stanford’s vast wrestling alumni and community to create a pathway to financial stability that will allow the program that has unequivocally represented Stanford’s values and mission to continue to give opportunities to kids from all backgrounds who dream to be great Stanford students and wrestlers.
- David Showunmi '20