I was recently reminded of the greatness of Stephen Neal. Neal was a two time NCAA champ from Cal State-Bakersfield, losing once in the finals to Hall of Fame wrestler, Kerry McCoy (I also just learned that he wrestled and defeated Ricky Williams in High School). Neal went on to wrestle internationally, where he became a World Champion at Heavyweight in 1999. After retiring from Wrestling upon losing in the 2000 Olympic Trials to Kerry McCoy, he decided to enter the NFL Combine. He was signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots, where he eventually became a their starting Guard, and won 3 Super Bowl rings. Why am I talking about Stephen Neal when this is very clearly an article about Adam Coon? Because if Adam Coon is so inclined, I believe he could have a very similar career path to Stephen Neal.
Let's begin with recent history. Adam Coon as a true Sophomore lost in the NCAA finals to defending National Champ Nick Gwiazdowski of NC State. Is Gwiz a good wrestler? Well clearly, he is a great wrestler, one who has a shot at making history by being the first three time Heavyweight National Champ. Is Coon able to beat him? Certainly, he has done it before. Although I'm sure Coon would prefer to have a National Championship rather than a Cliff Keen Title his Freshman year, but that's not how it works. Either way, the fact remains that Adam Coon was a true Sophomore in the NCAA finals. I believe he hasn't reached his ceiling yet in technique or strength. Coon is capable of throwing anyone on the planet, but I believe he is also capable of moving people around to take advantage of doubles and singles, which could improve his style. Briefly speaking with Head Michigan Coach, Joe McFarland at the MSU Open last year (a tournament that Coon won by pinning his opponent in the finals), he shared the same ideas. Clearly I'm paraphrasing, but it was essentially that until Coon works towards getting to the legs instead of relying on his exceptional over under game, he won't be able to become as good as he can be. It's like in football when your ground game is maximized when they can't stack the box and shut it down. You need to have a dangerous passing game to maximize both. The same goes for diversifying Coon's neutral attacks. That being said, I believe two things to be true. First, Coon is a very smart guy. He is currently enrolled in the school of Engineering at the University of Michigan, and it has been said that one of his goals is/was to become an Astronaut. Two, he is a student of wrestling, able to take feedback, and implement it into his style to reach his goals. That's what makes good wrestlers into great wrestlers, being coach-able and developing their style.
Coon's Freshman year he was ranked 1st in the Country, and was undefeated for a majority of the year. Ultimately, he had a disappointing Big Ten and NCAA Tournament, and didn't place in either. This last year, he had more regular season losses (Ty Walz of V Tech, Austin Marsden of OK State, Connor Medbury of Wisconsin, and Mike McMullen of Northwestern in semi's of Big Tens), but was able to use them to learn and get closer to the ultimate goals of post season wrestling success. Again, that's what you want to see out of your wrestlers. It's not how you start, but how you finish, and with the talent at Heavyweight these last couple of years, it's going to be hard for anyone (Gwiz included) to go undefeated. Not to only speak about his losses, he was able to avenge all of them (other than Walz and Marsden who he didn't compete against the rest of the year), and show growth and improvement. Additionally, I'm looking forward to watching him avenge the loss against Walz in the All Star meet in less than a month.
After another summer of growth (physically and mentally), I believe that Coon will be able to come away with the NCAA Championship at Heavyweight this year. Stephen Neal was a once in a lifetime talent, until Adam Coon came around. The scariest thing is, if he mirrors the career path of a 2x NCAA Champ, World Champ, and Super Bowl Champ, it will be simply because he decided to do so.