Oak Mountain midfielder Om Shrestha wins 2023 Player of the Year

Published 5:18 pm Monday, June 12, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The Shelby County area was loaded with talent at every position in 2023, with so many Player of the Year-level stars on each team.

When considering this year’s finalists, multiple names stood out. Pelham’s Alejandro Hernandez took his skills to the next level and went from the area’s top defender to one of the best, if not the best, in the state, and Om Shrestha was another strong candidate from Oak Mountain’s Final Four squad.

Gus Colvin was an All-County defender last year for Indian Springs, but his move to midfield and forward this year led to a breakout season that filled the scoring gap left by former Player of the Year Jackson Nabors and established him as one of the most exciting talents in the area.

Briarwood Christian’s Matthias Leib had another strong season in the Lions midfield, racking up 14 goals in his last season before moving on to Clemson next year.

Kaleb Bass also made big contributions on both sides of the ball for the Chelsea Hornets, scoring 12 goals with 15 assists while reaching the state playoffs in Chelsea’s first season in the 7A classification.

It was hard to decide for a while, but it was one player’s ability to take over games in attention-grabbing ways that separated him from the rest.

That player is Oak Mountain midfielder Om Shrestha, and he is the 2023 Shelby County Player of the Year.

In his junior year in the Eagles midfield, Shrestha was an anchor for the high-scoring Oak Mountain offense. His 15 goals were tied for third among All-County nominated players with Pelham’s Radostin Richardson, Westminster OM’s Aidan Gamble and Shrestha’s midfield partner Gabe Capocci.

His efficiency was easily the most eye-catching part of his 2023 statistics. Those 15 goals came off just 26 shots on goal, meaning for every shot he put on target, he had a 58% chance of scoring. That’s impressive for any player at any level, especially for a non-striker.

What separates Shrestha from his peers is the way he takes over games. Notably, in Oak Mountain’s Final Four loss to Huntsville, when the Eagles went down by a goal, many offensive runs started going through Shrestha in the midfield.

That’s not unusual for an attacking midfielder, especially for a talented player like Shrestha. However, while some stars might wilt in the spotlight, Shrestha rose to the challenge and put up chance after chance on the Huntsville net while setting up his teammates for shots as well.

The Eagles might not have won the semifinal game, but they at least had a fighting chance in the game and refused to go down quietly. That’s the mark of a great side, and behind every great side are great players.

Shrestha is one of those players. His combination of on-ball skills, offensive runs and shot-creating ability fueled their fight to stay alive. Without him, Oak Mountain may have still stayed in the game, but their tactics would have likely been very different, and that more than anything shows a star player like Shrestha’s impact on the Eagles.

The rest of the state has taken notice of his skills and influence too. In addition to his First Team All-County selection, Shrestha was named to the North team for the annual North-South All-Star Game, as well as the First Team All-7A, Second Team All-State and First Team All-Metro.

It’s those accolades combined with his in-game ability against the toughest teams in 7A and a run to the Final Four that separate Shrestha from the other players up for Player of the Year. Few people in the state are as efficient of a goal scorer as Shrestha and take over a match as well as he does, and that’s a big reason why Oak Mountain only lost three games all year and the reason why Om Shrestha is the 2023 Shelby County Player of the Year.