Started from the bottom now he’s here: Anni Ankola’s journey through wrestling


Special to Harker Aquila

Anni Ankola (12) poses at his most recent tournament that took place over winter break. He started wrestling junior year and is now current team co-captain.

Senior Anni Ankola proves that it is never too late to find one’s passion.

With no previous experience, current team co-captain, Anni, started wrestling later than most, as a junior. He soon discovered that wrestling serves as an outlet for him and he enjoys the thrill of the activity.

When he first joined the team, it was difficult for him to adjust to the sport because he needed to condition his body for the physical rigor.

“I started out very out of shape and needed to work on technique a lot, but eventually got it together,” he said. “The hardest part was […] probably keeping myself motivated.”

In order to achieve and maintain his build, he began with a fat and protein diet, and then eventually eliminated the fat to retain muscle while losing weight.

Between last year and this year, Anni and his coaches noticed considerable improvements in his skillset, sportsmanship and leadership.

“Anni is a guy who has really transformed himself in the last two years that I’ve known him,” Assistant Coach Charles Ward said. “He shows a way for the new guys, which I absolutely love. I’m really proud to call him a captain this year, and I couldn’t be happier with where he’s come from last year to this year.”

According to Anni, the team had fewer first-year players last year, so the environment was more “intense.” This year, the team dynamic is more “casual” and laid-back, allowing the five players that are new to Upper School’s wrestling program adapt to the sport.

Teammate Ryan Palmer (12) comments on what Anni adds to the team.

“He is an inspiration and he drives us all to be better people,” he said. “The best way I could make a parallel between Anni and the real world is he is our Mother Teresa.”

Anni’s journey on the wrestling team may end this year, but this experience has taught him that “hard work truly does pay off,” a lesson that will stay with him forever.