In 1989, Khalil Abdul-Malik was named to The Washington Post’s All-Met wrestling team. He was the only freshman on the team and at the time was only the second Saint in school history to ever be named to the First Team. Things only got better for Abdul-Malik, and his nearly flawless career has earned him one more accolade – induction into the SSSAS Hall of Fame.
His sophomore year found him with a strong group of wrestlers dubbed “Murderer’s Row.” He was the first in the sequence at 130 pounds, posting first-place finishes at the St. Stephen’s Holiday Classic, the St. Albans Tournament, and at states. He took third at nationals, and once again earned first team All-Met honors.
At this point, Abdul-Malik had more than made a name for himself. Tack Richardson ’99 remembers, “Khalil was so good that people made time to watch him wrestle. I can still remember my father taking me, as a 10-year-old, to his matches and saying, ‘This is the guy we came to see. He’s a national champion and quick as a cat.’ Twenty years later, Khalil remains the gold standard.”
Junior year turned into an even more memorable year for Abdul-Malik. After posting his first undefeated regular season, he found out that the National Prep Wrestling Tournament was mistakenly scheduled on the same weekend as the Virginia Independent School State Wrestling Tournament. He says, “I had finished in third place at the national tournament both my freshman and sophomore years, and I had a good chance of winning nationals as a junior. But I was conflicted because Coach David Hooper and my father, Omar, who was the assistant wrestling coach, had developed a great team. We had a great chance of winning the state tournament, and I wanted to experience that with my teammates and coaches. But Coach Hooper insisted that I go to the national tournament.”
Abdul-Malik cruised to the finals and won a close 2-1 match to take home the gold. And back in Virginia, the Saints had captured the team state championship. They had done what no other Virginia team had done in history by winning both an individual national championship and a team state championship in the same weekend. Coach Hooper told a local paper, “We’re feeling pretty good right now … you don’t have too many weekends like this in your coaching career.” Of Abdul-Malik in particular he said, “[He] doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. He has a combination of intensity and desire to win, along with great natural ability, great balance and exceptional instincts. He can score from just about anywhere.”
Fortunately during his senior year, Abdul-Malik was able to wrestle in both the state tournament and the National Prep tournament because they were on separate weekends. He says, “That season’s Saints wrestling team was one of the best teams in the state, public or private. Not only were we able to win the state tournament by the widest margin ever, but we also won the first state championship of any kind for the newly merged SSSAS.” Abdul-Malik was also National Prep Champion again that year, capping off his incredible 159-7 career record.
Former teammate and current SSSAS Head Wrestling Coach Joe Shabelski ’92 says of Abdul-Malik, “He was the top dog who everyone wanted to beat, but he was so good on his feet and had this great duck-under move that he would use when his opponents got tired, that they couldn’t touch him.”
Abdul-Malik went on to win 107 matches in college, was ACC Champion in 1997, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times. He later was named Coach of the Year by the Virginia Independent School Wrestling Association when he coached at nearby Norfolk Academy.