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For most of
us, community service is a way to give back when the mood strikes and the
schedule allows. For Northwest Community High School Head Wresting Coach
Terrell Al-Sharif, positively impacting his community has become a way of life.

 

It’s what he
does as a wrestling coach, a firefighter and a military veteran. It’s a life of
service that was sparked while pinning opponents on the wrestling mat.Terrell Al-Sharif

 

Growing up
in Fort Wayne, Al-Sharif (formerly Terrell Williams) excelled at football,
which, at the time, was the only hard-nosed sport offered at the elementary and
middle school levels. Knowing that he was missing out on opportunities to
experience other avenues of competition, the outspoken youngster convinced his
middle school football coaches to add wrestling to their athletics program and
immediately found his calling. This spelled the beginning of a long and
gratifying journey with wrestling, which continues today.

 

Al-Sharif wrestled
year-round in school, competing with some of Indiana’s best talent and placing
in the Top Five in the State tournament before graduating high school in 1986.
During this time, he learned the value of perseverance, self-motivation and
listening to instruction first. After competing in the Indiana Central (currently
the University of Indianapolis) wrestling program for a season, Terrell chose
to join the military and serve his country while gaining an education.

 

Returning home
from military service in the mid-1990s, Al-Sharif knew he wanted to give young
people the same opportunities to learn and grow through the sport of wrestling
that he experienced, so he began coaching Pee Wee leagues for his son. Although
satisfying, it wasn’t enough for Al-Sharif, who desperately wanted to get into
local schools to impact the students who needed his guidance most.

 

“Wrestling
helps develop self-esteem, and that’s what a lot of our kids need. Some of the
best wrestlers start out as the underachievers because they don’t have that
belief in themselves,” said Al-Sharif. “Wrestling is too hard of a sport to say
that you’re going to do it for someone else. When you’re out there on that mat
and it’s just me and you, you’ve got to believe that you’re capable of
victory.”

 

After over a
year of persistence, Al-Sharif worked his way onto Arlington High School’s
wrestling staff. In 1998, he became the head wrestling coach at George S. Buck School
94 and began mentoring his students. Coach Al-Sharif saw himself developing
right along with his student athletes, as his coaching skills and techniques
continuously improved.

 

But early in
his career, with no coaching stipends offered by the district and no teaching
background, he needed another way to make ends meet. While still working in the
schools, Al-Sharif took a job in police dispatch before utilizing his technical
military training as an IT professional for the police and fire departments. With
his approachable personality, he quickly developed relationships with
firefighters, who encouraged him to join the squad. Initially concerned that a
position as a firefighter would conflict with his commitment to mentoring and
coaching the IPS students he had grown to love, Al-Sharif was reluctant at
first. However, his devotion to public service led him to take the leap. He’s
been an Indianapolis firefighter for 13 years.

 

“We call it
the greatest job in the world, and wouldn’t debate that at all. There’s never a
dull day. We get to do some miraculous things,” said Al-Sharif. “We’re truly
what you’d call public servants and I am thankful to have the opportunity to be
a part of that.”

 

Al-Sharif’s passion
for serving others comes from watching his mother tirelessly help those around
her. His mother worked as an orthopedic nurse for 45 years, with a “smile on
her face and a pep in her step” — spreading positive energy to all of her patients
and loved ones. Al-Sharif credits his mother with passing those traits on to him
at a young age.

 

As he enters
his seventh year of coaching at Northwest, Al-Sharif continues to search for
new ways to impact future generations. In 2015, he joined a group of
firefighters to form a local chapter of the Beat the Streets program, an
initiative designed to help young participants learn to become productive and
self-sufficient through the sport of wrestling. They earn donations from local
and national sponsoring organizations to take students from all over Central
Indiana — ages 2 and older — to compete in wrestling meets throughout the
Midwest.

 

“The most
rewarding aspect of being a coach is watching those guys who have gone through
the metamorphosis,” said Al-Sharif. “They may never have been a Sectional
champion, they may not have even had a winning record, but the change I see in
them… Some of my kids came in here and didn’t have the motivation to do much of
anything and now they’re accomplishing great things in life.”