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By GOOSE LINDSAY
Kingston’s Tyler Adams capped off a great sophomore season on the wrestling mat Thursday and Friday as the 135-pound Jacket wrestler won four matches in two days to finish fifth overall and earn a medal in the TSSAA Division I State Tournament.
"I'm pretty excited," Adams said. "All my hard work has paid off. Now I've got to keep working hard so I can place higher next year."
Adams' strong finish came as a bit of a surprise to his father and coach, Chris Adams, who said that Tyler didn't necessarily look great in practice leading up to the state tournament.
"I always thought that Tyler had the ability, but it all depended on which Tyler showed up," Chris Adams said. "He had a tough couple of weeks leading up to the tournament and I really didn't think he would do that well."
Adams opened play Wednesday afternoon by defeating Bolton junior Ryne Stevens in the opening round, but lost his second round match to two-time defending state champion David Graham of Bradley Central. Wednesday’s loss left Adams in the difficult position of having to win three straight matches on Thursday to earn his medal. Adams, however, was up to the task as he completed the trifecta Thursday evening to earn his medal for a top six finish.
"Just knowing it was win or go home pushed me," Tyler said. "My teammates along with Blake Hartley and coach (David) Bell had me prepared mentally and physically for it."
Adams opening match on Thursday was his closest as he edged Eagleville freshman Sam Underwood by a 5-2 final. Adams won his next match by knocking off Ravenwood’s David Chege, 8-2.
The big victory, however, came Thursday evening as Adams downed Montgomery Central sophomore Matt Price, 11-6, to earn at least a sixth place finish.
"Tyler got back to the basics Thursday," coach Adams said. "He knows that he has the ability to wrestle at this level, but getting through all the hype on Wednesday and just realizing it 's just another tournament or match was the biggest thing."
Momentum didn’t carry over to Friday, however, as Morristown West junior John Herrold handed Adams a 7-2 setback. Herrold went on to finish third in the event.
Adams did bounce back to finish fifth overall when he defeated Red Bank junior Tony Tolbert with an injury default.
Now Adams will have two years to try to improve on this year's showing and he should have a lot of confidence as he faced all of the top three finishers in this year's state tournament.
"It's going to give me more confidence," Tyler said. "This will make me work harder to get a state championship. I'll have a lot of work to do this summer."
"I think the biggest thing Tyler can take from this is the understanding that to wrestle at this level it's going to take a higher commitment," coach Adams said. "If he makes it back next year, I think he will have more confidence and won't be as much of a nervous wreck."