History is made when potential and opportunity collide. For Adam Coon and the University of Michigan wrestling program, opportunity is knocking.
Entering his fifth and final year as a Wolverine, Coon has built a foundation to become one of the best in program history.
He has earned two All-America honors, finishing as high as second place at the NCAA Championships. He holds three medals from age-group World Championships, two in the Junior division and one in the Cadet division.
In fact, the last time Coon stepped on the mat he was a single victory away from qualifying to represent the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Greco-Roman wrestling.
But just like every other wrestler, Coon has experienced his fair share of adversity. The past year has been just that for the Michigan heavyweight, a year of challenge, but also a year of opportunity.
Mere months following the Olympic Trials held in April of 2016, Coon and the Michigan coaching staff mutually opted to go forward with a much-needed shoulder surgery and redshirt the talented big man.
“I think he handled it really well,” said Michigan Head Coach Joe McFarland. “We just really wanted to make sure that when he came back that he was 100-percent healthy and we were going to have no more issues with that shoulder.”
The past year was a difficult challenge for Coon, who was forced to take a step back from the constant grind of NCAA wrestling and focus on both the mental and physical sides of rehabilitation.
“I’ve got to say, I’m really excited to get back after it. Spending a year off the mat really starts taking a toll on you,” Coon explained. “I probably rushed into things, probably a little too quickly. I learned that balance maybe a little later than I wanted to. It was really just trying to figure out what the body could handle.”
Although eager to return to the mat, Coon took advantage of the situation and focused on development in all areas of his life.
Academics are a crucial part of Coon’s story. He recently graduated with Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Aerospace Engineering, and has since enrolled in graduate school pursuing a Master of Engineering in Space Engineering. This academic workload in itself is an arduous undertaking.
“It was nice to have last year off so I could finish up things. I ended up graduating, so it was nice to go through the whole graduation process without also having to worry about wrestling, and I could finish up those credits with not really too much of a worry,” Coon said.
After he decides to hang up his wrestling shoes, Coon’s ultimate objective is to become an astronaut. The transition out of wrestling will not come soon. Coon is hopeful he can compete internationally on World and Olympic Teams for the U.S. in either freestyle or Greco-Roman, while also working select internships or conducting research at Michigan to better prepare himself for a career in the space industry.
Outside of wrestling and academia, family is a top priority for Coon. His support system, including parents Dan and Dana Coon, have been rock solid throughout these ventures. A native of Fowlerville, Michigan, Coon resides close to home while pursuing his dreams on the Ann Arbor campus.
As the NCAA Division I season approaches, Coon is anxious and prepared for his return to the mat. He is a top-flight NCAA title contender in the 275-pound weight class, and is a leader on the Wolverine squad that returns six All-Americans to its lineup.
Coach McFarland interprets Coon to be in a settled, focused place, and is confident in his ability to lead Michigan to great heights.
“He’s just one of those natural leaders. He’s been really focused, really intense in the practice room. He focuses on the right stuff. He’s just one of those guys all coaches want to have in their program and work with,” McFarland said.
Michigan has been pegged as a top-three team by the majority of preseason polls, slotting in behind returning NCAA champion Penn State and a loaded Ohio State program. Even with all the buzz surrounding the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes, Coon, McFarland and the entire Michigan program believe they have the capability to win the NCAA team title.
“This team definitely has a lot of potential to do great things. We have a lot of potential to stand on top of the podium. Now the part we have got to figure out as a team, and as individuals, is that potential going to stay potential, or if we are going to get after it and make it a reality,” Coon explained.
Dethroning Penn State to win a NCAA title will require a complete team effort. This includes veterans and newcomers alike not only meeting, but exceeding expectations.
“There’s no reason why we can’t put ourselves in a position to win a Big Ten championship and a national championship. We’ve got a lot of horses in the lineup. We’ve got a lot of experience. I think if we wrestle with an attitude, and we compete with a chip on our shoulder, I think we can do anything we think we are capable of doing,” McFarland said.
Coon believes his personal journey, freshman year specifically, can be a learning experience for everyone at Michigan.
“I’d say I’m the old fart that people go to for advice,” Coon said with a chuckle. “I’ve been to the NCAA tournament. I’ve been to Big Ten’s. I’ve had both success and pretty bad failures there, so I have a lot of experience when it comes to those things.
“They look at me as an all-star that gets a lot of success, but when they find out how my freshman year went, where I was doing great during the season then I had a mental breakdown when it came to Big Ten’s and NCAA’s, they get a little advice from that and realize it’s a big mental game here in college. It’s not just pure talent.”
A team title would be one massive piece to Coon’s legacy, but he is well aware of the individual feats he must accomplish this season to truly cement himself in wrestling lore.
He has been in the finals of the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships before, but has yet to capture the top spot in either event. Standing in the way of both goals is a deep heavyweight field headlined by Olympic champion, two-time World champion and two-time NCAA champion Kyle Snyder of Ohio State.
“There are a lot of tough competitors still at heavyweight here that haven’t graduated yet,” Coon said. “I know everyone is talking about Kyle Snyder. I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t scouting him. He’s obviously the biggest competitor at heavyweight currently, and I’m doing a lot of looking at the way he wrestles and preparing for him. I guarantee he’s doing the same to me. It will be some fun battles here if and when we get the chance to wrestle.”
Now feeling back to form, Coon views this season as the perfect opportunity for him to cap off his collegiate career. That said, he admits it will be a task of epic proportions.
“I keep telling myself as I’m going through training, hey, you’ve got a great opportunity ahead of you, and you’re coming off doing nothing for a few months, so you’ve got to go from zero to best in the world through the NCAA season. You’ve got to beat Snyder, be the best in the world, because that’s what he is right now,” he said.
The potential is present. A giant opportunity undoubtedly awaits. Coon and the Wolverines now set out on a journey to make their own history, savoring all the moments, large and small alike, along the way.