It was quite a weekend for Chariho graduate Derek Adams.
Adams, a sophomore wrestler at Springfield College, secured himself a spot as an All-American thanks to his fourth place finish in the 133-pound weight class at the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships this past weekend at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“He’s improved a lot and he’s learned a lot,” said Jason Holder, Adams’ coach at Springfield. “He’s developed to the point where he’s obviously one of the best in the country and I think he’s going to get even better.”
According to Holder, Adams has had the physical tools to be successful but this past weekend his match strategy was what really set him apart.
“He’s so strong and he’s starting to get really smart as a wrestler and understand certain situations,” Holder said. “He’s strong, he’s pretty quick but his match strategy is something that he’s become pretty good at.”
Friday morning Adams kicked off the tournament with an opening round match against McDaniel College’s Ryan O’Boyle, a grappler whom had gotten the best of him earlier this season.
O’Boyle – the No. 8 ranked wrestler in the bracket coming in – would not have the same luck this time around as the unranked Adams outlasted the Green Terror wrestler 6-3.
Getting past O’Boyle was key for Adams as his next match was against top-seeded Kenny Anderson of Wartburg College, who ultimately went on to win the 133-pound weight class in convincing fashion.
“Kenny Anderson is a very talented wrestler and Derek lost to him [14-3], which was alright,” Holder said. “When we looked at where we were in the bracket – we obviously want Derek to win every match – but if he could get past his first match he’ll be able to get through.”
The win over O’Boyle meant Adams would not see No. 2 Nathan Fitzenreider of North Central College (Ill.) – who was upset in the second round by eventual runner-up Grant Sutter of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – until at least the consolation finals.
Once in the consolation bracket Adams really put his strategy to the test and patiently took down Chris Sokol of the University of Dubuque (Iowa) 3-0 to finish off day one.
“He wrestled great against Sokol,” Holder said. “I knew he was going to be able to pull through. ‘I’m not worried,’ he said, ‘I think I’m going to do well.’ He was confident going into the tournament.”
That confidence carried into Saturday as Adams took care of No. 4 Dalton Bullard – a returning All-American himself – of Elmhurst College (Ill.) 6-4.
“Bullard was third in the tournament the year before and the returning All-American,” Holder said. “Derek was down early and came back and he wrestled him really well. It was a great match, it was back-and-forth and it was great to see him comeback like that.”
In the consolation bracket semifinals Adams came through with his biggest win of the tournament, knocking off No. 3 Alex Gomez – another wrestler who had beaten Adams earlier in the season – of Ithaca College (N.Y.) 4-3 in a tiebreaker.
“It was the strategy that we had,” Holder said. “Derek shot on him in his other matches against Gomez and we decided let’s wait and let’s play a little bit of defense and get him late in the match. He executed that plan to a tee.”
The win secured Adams’ status as an All-American and just in time too, as he came away on the wrong end of an 8-2 decision in the finals against Fitzenreider.
“He’s a very good and a very seasoned wrestler,” said Holder. He’s just a little more advance but geeze, [Derek] is fourth in the country and he’s a sophomore.
“He’s doing very well, we’re very pleased with Derek and how he’s developed over the last year.”
If he continues to work hard Adams should only get better over the next few years, as he has done ever since he broke his arm in his sophomore year at Chariho.
“As he came out as a sophomore we had high hopes and unfortunately against Steve Gordon’s team [Cumberland] in the first meet of the season he broke his arm and lost that entire season,” Chariho coach Scott Merritt said. “He came back and by his senior season he was third at states and third at New Englands.
“His freshman year of college I would consider a senior year of high school. As he continues to learn more technique, more counters and just the confidence that he’s got this year he’s only going to get better.”
Both holder and Merritt are convinced that on his current path the Chariho wrestler could find himself in the hunt for a national championship in the next two years.
“We’re going to soak this one up a little bit and have fun with, ‘hey, he’s an All-American,” Holder said. “It’s a great accomplishment he’s achieved and we’re very proud of him.
“…I feel that being a national champ is a very achievable goal for him and hopefully he’ll be able to achieve that.”
“I know what kind of mindset Derek has,” Merritt said. “I don’t doubt in my mind that he’ll be a national champion before he graduates.
“…You’re not done seeing All-American status from Derek. If he continues to work hard I do believe a national championship is in his future.”