Michigan freshman Adam Coon excelling on the mat and in the classroom

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | Jan. 15, 2014, 12:12 p.m. (ET)

Michigan true freshman Adam Coon is 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country at heavyweight.

If there is a young college wrestler who fully understands the term student-athlete it is Adam Coon.

Coon has created his share of attention with his phenomenal start as a true freshman on the wrestling mat for the University of Michigan. 

He’s 21-0, ranked No. 1 in the country at heavyweight and he’s already beaten four wrestlers ranked in the top seven nationally.

But for the 19-year-old Coon, enrolled in Michigan’s College of Engineering, he is keeping everything in proper perspective. 

“There is no question that academics come first for me,” Coon said. “I know I need to put most of my time into school. I obviously have to put in a bunch of time in wrestling as well, so you really have to prioritize your time.”

Even with a challenging class schedule, Coon excelled in his first semester. 

“I ended up with all A’s and B’s,” Coon said. “I’m hoping to build on that and do even better this semester.”

If you were going to give Coon a grade for his first-semester performance on the wrestling mat, it would certainly be an A. 

He won titles at two of college wrestling’s toughest events – the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas and the Midlands Championships in suburban Chicago – en route to his blazing start.

He already owns victories over No. 3 Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State, No. 4 Bobby Telford of Iowa, No. 5 J.T. Felix of Boise State and No. 7 Spencer Myers of Maryland. 

“I’m definitely pleasantly surprised,” Coon said. “I’m loving the opportunity to compete at a high level like this. I’m very excited and happy to go out and compete. I’m making a lot of progress and continuing to improve.”

When the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Coon arrived at Michigan for the start of classes, he knew taking a redshirt year that most college wrestlers take was a possibility. 

“I was basically prepared for anything,” he said. “I knew I could possibly be in the starting lineup as well. At the beginning of the season, Coach (Joe) McFarland called me into his office and told me I was going to be starting. I got really excited when he told me that. I had been making gains in the practice room and started feeling better about the transition to college wrestling. I was ready for that challenge.”

Now comes Coon’s toughest challenge of the season – a meeting with two-time NCAA champion and second-ranked Tony Nelson of Minnesota on Sunday in a dual meet in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Wolverines wrestle at Illinois on Friday. 

The powerful Nelson is a senior who also has finished fifth in the University World Championships in freestyle. He is a three-time NCAA All-American.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever wrestled,” Coon said. “I’m keeping my focus on Illinois first and making sure I’m extremely well-prepared for that match. Looking at Tony Nelson, he’s a two-time NCAA champion and he obviously will be very tough to beat.” 

Nelson is actually coming off a loss to Northwestern’s Mike McMullan, who placed second to Nelson at the 2013 NCAA tournament.

“I just have to go out there and battle and do the best I can against Nelson,” Coon said. “If I come out on top, that’s a great win for me. I may have a couple of opportunities to wrestle him before the NCAA tournament. He’s a great wrestler and it will be a really good challenge for me.” 

McFarland said Coon “doesn’t take a backseat to anybody.”

“Adam’s very competitive and he pours himself into winning,” McFarland said. “He’s very driven and he doesn’t have any fear. He’s very focused. He has high expectations and aspirations. He holds himself to a high standard.” 

Coon developed and excelled coming up through the USA Wrestling ranks.

He won a Cadet World title in 2011 before capturing back-to-back USA Wrestling Junior Triple Crowns in 2012 and 2013. 

He was coached in high school by his father, Dan Coon, who wrestled collegiately for Alma College. Dan serves as the state chairperson for USA Wrestling in Michigan.

Adam Coon was a three-sport standout at Fowlerville (Mich.) High School, winning four state titles in wrestling while also earning all-state honors in football and track. He chose to wrestle in college despite being heavily recruited in football. 

Coon also excelled academically. He was Salutatorian (ranked second academically) in his high school class. He also was a member of the National Honor Society.

Coon’s high level of conditioning is one of his strengths for a big man trying to make his mark in college wrestling. 

“I try to push the pace as much as I can,” he said. “I think that’s where I can have an edge in my matches. I have a pretty good gas tank where I don’t wear down out there. I just have to keep wrestling hard.”

Coon’s hard-nosed style has enabled him to excel right away for the Wolverines. 

“Adam’s conditioning is great and the pressure he puts on guys is unbelievable,” McFarland said. “If you watch his matches, I don’t remember seeing him go out of bounds. He creates a lot of forward pressure and has his opponents backing up. He hand-fights well and gets to his positions well. He pushes the pace and forces guys to a place where they are a little uncomfortable. And he’s still getting better. I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses and develops.”

Coon also has adapted well to wrestling more close matches after destroying most of the competition he faced in high school. 

“I’m working on my shots, and I’m putting in more time working on wrestling on top and bottom,” he said. “We do a lot of live goes in practice where you are put in a position where you are down by one point or up by one point. You have to keep going and wrestle hard in those situations. The training we do is great preparation for some of those close matches.”

Coon said Michigan has provided the perfect fit for him. 

“I absolutely love it here at Michigan,” he said. “I’m making some good friends in wrestling and in the classroom. I am fitting in well and things seem to be clicking. It’s been an amazing experience so far.”

McFarland calls Coon a “true student-athlete.” 

“Adam’s a great student who is studying aerospace engineering,” McFarland said. “He’s very mature and focused. There are no distractions with him. He knows what he wants and he doesn’t get caught up in other things that some kids get caught up in.

“He’s definitely enjoyable to coach. He’s there every day to get better and he’s always asking the coaches what he can do to get better. He’s fun to be around. He’s a high character young man and we’re very happy to have him in our program.” 

Coon is part of a wrestling program with a number of promising young prospects.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of this team,” he said. “The freshmen we have are making great gains and progress. I think this team is going to be top-notch. We are definitely on the rise. I’m excited to see how far we can go.”