During his sophomore season at Oxon Hill High School, Darrian Hollings badly injured his finger.
A three-sport athlete, Hollings, who frequently goes by his middle name Malik, was in the middle of football season with wrestling season rapidly approaching.
After an initial X-ray of the finger was misdiagnosed, Hollings learned that his bone was riding over his knuckle and was at risk of causing permanent damage in the digit.
“Well, Malik being Malik refused to see a doctor. He wanted to finish out the season,” Clippers wrestling coach Sean Edelin said. “Malik said he’d go back to the doctor after the season if I didn’t ask him any more about it and let him go back and wrestle once everything picked up.”
So that’s what happened. But during the time he was prohibited from competing, Hollings, now a senior, was still anxious to hop back on the mat.
“He wasn’t cleared to wrestle and he was hanging out constantly near the side of the mat telling us, ‘Coach, I’ve been keeping in shape, I’ve been running on my own,’” assistant coach Steve Howard said.
So Howard decided to issue Hollings a series of fitness tests. The catch? If Hollings vomited before completing the tests, Howard would get to take a celebratory picture and show it to Malik’s parents.
“Next thing you know, he goes to the trash can,” Howard said while holding both of his thumbs in the air and smiling wide, mimicking the pose he struck over Hollings while he relieved himself.
Two years later, Hollings again fought through a bout with illness, but was far more successful this time. In fact, he’s arguably one of Prince George’s County’s top wrestlers in the 170-pound weight class after bumping up from 160 last season.
“It’s kind of tough because the guys are bigger and stronger, but then again, it’s been an easier transition for me because I haven’t had to cut the weight that some people do and I have more energy than some people going out there,” Hollings said.
The Wednesday before the Winter Blitz tournament on Jan. 11-12, Hollings came down with a nasty spell of food poisoning. In the Clippers’ tri-meet against Henry A. Wise and Charles H. Flowers, Hollings ran to the waste bucket during every break in his match to throw up, but still ended up winning. On Thursday, he went to the hospital and lost seven pounds in a matter of hours, but “the good part about it was I had no problems making weight,” he said.
On Friday, after forcing himself to school so he would be eligible for the tournament, he breezed through the opening rounds of the Blitz before mustering enough strength during Saturday’s finals to win the 170-pound weight class.
The following Wednesday, Hollings defeated Eleanor Roosevelt’s Jonathan Jones, who beat Hollings (23-2) two weeks prior.
All of this happened without practicing since the previous Thursday because Oxon Hill’s temporary gym at John Hanson Middle School was being used for a science fair.
“I throw guys at him nonstop in practice,” Edelin said. “Bigger guys. I have some of my best alumni who have ever wrestled for us come in and they consistently take turns jumping on him. I wait until they wear him down and I jump on him, which he hates. But he takes it all in stride.
“He’s always working hard. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Hollings has enjoyed success at 170 despite being light for his weight class, but that means that he has plenty of opportunities to play his favorite game.
“He’ll come in and ask us, ‘Coach, guess what I ate today?’” Howard said. “Then he’ll name the most horrible things, like a six-cheese burrito and some tater tots, and brag that he’s eaten them because he knows it will drive us crazy.”
While Hollings is currently dominating the wrestling circuit, he aspires to play football in college. Last week, he made visits to Salisbury and McDaniel, where he’s being recruited to play safety. As a linebacker and running back for the Clippers last season, Hollings was just as much of a leader physically and mentally for the football team as he is on the wrestling squad.
“He’s been the one saving grace on the football team, but the last two football seasons, I’ve been so scared through the season because they use him so much,” Edelin said. “I was like, ‘Please survive the season, I need him for wrestling.’”
The sixth-year grappler likely wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Wrestling season requires a lot more out of me. It’s basically there to break you down physically and mentally,” Hollings said. “The stronger person always wins, so you need to be better prepared and have better technique and you’ll be alright.”