Salem (MA) Witches Boys Soccer '07

Ibrahim Oyewole, 16 of Salem, has overcome many personal struggles in recent years, including the death of his mother and surgery on his brain to remove a tumor, but has persevered as a strong team member of the Salem High School Varsity Soccer team. » Kristen Olson, Staff Photographer

Salem's Oyewole comes back from brain surgery to have an impact for the Witches

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Tuesday, September, 18 By Bill Kipouras
Staff writer

Ibreham Oyewole is at least 5-foot-11, a slim 175 pounds and gets teased all the time about his physical makeover.

"He was pretty chubby (198 lbs.) last year. We get on him about it all the time," said Salem High soccer teammate Lorjan Koragjozi.

Oyewole, a soon-to-be 17-year-old Salem High senior from Ibadan in western Nigeria, made the varsity squad this season after dedicating himself to weight training last winter and into 2007. He worked out with Koragjozi, his best friend and a native of Fier, Albania, in hopes of moving up after three years on the Salem JV team.

But making the varsity isn't anywhere close to Oyewole's biggest accomplishment.

Here is a young man who had two separate operations for brain surgery last fall. He was having seizures, got checked out and was eventually operated on.

After the CAT scan from that initial surgery came back last November, doctors discovered something on Oyewole's brain that caused the seizures, so he went back for another operation to have it removed.

Now the seizures are gone, Oyewole has dropped 25 pounds thanks to working out and a healthy lifestyle, and he's back to playing soccer as the last line of defense for the Witches in the role of sweeper.

"It took me a couple of months to get my feet back. Now, I feel perfect," Oyewole said, reflecting on the surgery. "I think all (the tough luck) I had has made me tougher. I also work hard at everything I do."

Oyewole's seizures, on average, occurred a couple of times per month. They were usually accompanied by fainting spells. His father, Razak, had a simple answer when he was asked if he was scared upon hearing his son had a brain tumor. "Who wouldn't be?" he said.

"We're thankful for Salem High's counseling, the doctors who operated on him at Children's Hospital in Boston, our neurologist, Dr. Edgar Oppenheimer, and the support of those great kids in the soccer program. Mike D'Agostino, his coach on the JVs, was wonderful. There were a lot of good people around Ibreham."

As close as they are ("we're like brothers," Karagjizo said), the extent of Oyewole's surgery was not known to his friend. Karagjizo said there was never much said about it | except that it was brain surgery.

Salem's varsity head coach D'Agostino | who previously coached him on the JVs | said Oyewole is one of the team's toughest players.

"Initially, I didn't think he'd be playing soccer again, to be honest," admitted D'Agostino. "That was big surgery last November. I'm shocked to see a person come back and do what he's doing. It's pretty amazing.

"The other kids look up to him. He's been through a lot, and works off of that."

Razak Oyewole said his son was taking medicine for the seizures for three months and finally had a small tumor on brain removed after an MRI revealed it.

"They monitored him for weeks, and were able to spot a part of the brain causing the seizures. That led to the second surgery. Since then. he's been fine.

The odd part about the type of seizures he was having didn't happen during the day; only at night while he was sleeping. He was still active in the daytime until the surgeries.

This young athlete has also had to fight through the loss of his mother, Fatima, while she was giving birth to a daughter, Faith, two years ago.

"When I think of my mother, I work harder," said Oyewole. "That pushes me to do what I can do. I push myself all the time."

Not only has he played his way onto the varsity this year, but Oyewole has evolved as one of its best players. In the eyes of Koragjozi and the rest of the Witches' soccer team, Oyewole is a special young man.

With his terrific speed, Oyewole is eminently qualified to play the last line of defense for his team. He wins all the practice sprints and garners a lot of 50-50 balls, too. He usually plays the full 80 minutes in a particular game. "I didn't think soccer was over for me," Oyewole said. "I took good care of myself.

"Do I avoid collisions? I don't think about contact. I just play the game."

Another teammate, Alejandro Alvarez, said he couldn't even imagine going through two brain procedures.

"But I.B.'s a strong kid, and that's how it got through it," said Alejandro. "Now he's one of our best players. He contributes a lot. He plays 100 percent all the time. We all feel secure with I.B. on defense as a sweeper or stopper."

Oyewole didn't push himself away from the table to drop almost 25 pounds.

"I.B. | that's what I call him | is a strong-willed person," Karagjizo said. "When he puts his mind to something, he'll come up successful.

He went from all chubby to all muscle. We worked out every other day, either at the Salem YMCA or the Salem High gym. The workouts were intense. We also ran a mile-and-a-half. After our workouts we'd even jog home to Salem Heights (Gallows Hill). We ate healthy choices. Low-fat stuff. No junk foods."

D'Agostino has never seen a player do such a complete 180-degree turn in one season.

"Foot-wise, his first touch is just so much better," said D'Agostino. "Everything he does is better, his dribbling, his shot. He had a lot on his plate, but he pushed right through it."

"It was a big break that he stayed with soccer. I wanted to reduce his involvement. But he did it his way," the father said.

"I've been lucky about all this. Soccer has pulled me through," Oyewole said.

1 Story Comments

0         emk391

IB is my boy! props too him! great player!

Report! #1 08/28/2008 08:10 PM