Marysville High School graduate Taleb Rahmani prepares to pin an opponent in this file photo. Rahmani’s collegiate career ended when the NCAA decided to cancel its 2020 tournament. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
The coronavirus has left former Marysville High School state wrestling champion Taleb Rahmani not feeling well these days.
It’s not that the 2015 MHS graduate has come down with the illness.
It’s because the widespread sickness is preventing him and a lot of other collegiate grapplers from competing in the NCAA tournament.
Rahmani, who recently finished second in the 157-pound weight class during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, would have qualified for his fourth consecutive NCAA tournament this year.
Coronavirus fears, however, have forced the entire professional and collegiate sports worlds to shut down for an indefinite time.
“I found out the NCAA tournament was canceled about 3 p.m. on Thursday,” he said. “My first thought was it’s over… my career is over.”
Rahmani wasn’t ashamed to admit that tears welled up and he began crying when he heard the news.
“I’m very upset that I can’t contend for All-American honors this year,” he said.
In order to have been considered an NCAA All-American, Rahmani would have had to place in the top eight of the national tournament.
He competed in the NCAA during each of his first three years on the mat as a member of the University of Pittsburgh team.
Rahmani was in the round of 16 as a freshman, the round of 24 as a sophomore and the round of 12 a year ago as a junior.
He feels he could have placed in the top eight and earned All-American status as a senior.
“You know, as a wrestler you’re supposed to go down fighting,” said Rahmani during a telephone interview on Friday with the Journal-Tribune. “If my career had ended with an injury, well, that comes with the sport… that’s what you sign up for.
“I didn’t sign up for this.”
Rahmani red-shirted as a true freshman during the 2015-16 season and went 1-2 in matches while competing in the 149-pound weight class.
He bumped up to 157 pounds for the next four seasons.
Rahmani, who is one of the few Pitt grapplers to ever qualify for four straight NCAA tourneys, went 25-8 in 2016-17 and followed with an 18-14 mark the next year.
He went 19-8 during the 2018-19 campaign and posted a 14-8 record this season.
Rahmani won an ACC championship in 2017 and placed fourth a year later.
He finished as the circuit’s runner-up the past two seasons.
Rahmani said the shutdown will allow his body to heal from the normal dings and dents that accompany a wrestling season.
However, he said, “I was ready to compete at the NCAA.”
Although his collegiate mat career is over, there may still be matches ahead for the 2015 Division I state high school champion.
At some point, Rahmani will travel with his dad to his father’s native country of Algeria.
The younger Rahmani plans to compete for a spot on the Algerian national team.
He would be paid a salary at that level and could compete in up to 10 matches at any time during any given year, he said.
If he earns a roster spot, Rahmani will return to Pittsburgh and begin his training. He will also work as a emergency medical technician (EMT), for which he received his license last summer.
Rahmani will earn his college degree in Natural Science after completing one on-line class by the end of April.
His eventual goal is to attend a two-year physican’s assistant program.
He will do that whenever his wrestling career comes to an end.
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