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Week of 20 February 2004 · Vol. VII, No. 21

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BU's wrestling coach lives for the mat

By Amy E. Dean

Wrestling head coach Carl Adams (left) and assistant coach and former Terrier All-American Earl Walker (SAR'96, SED'98,'03). Photo by Rob Klein


Wrestling head coach Carl Adams (left) and assistant coach and former Terrier All-American Earl Walker (SAR'96, SED'98,'03). Photo by Rob Klein

Carl Adams, head coach of BU's wrestling team for 23 years, has lived and breathed wrestling for four decades. Under his tutelage, 78 BU wrestlers have competed in the NCAA tournament, and he has amassed a 94-26 conference record.

This year is no exception. Currently the Terrier team is 14-2 and has won 11 straight matches. “It's one of our top five or six seasons,” Adams says, adding that one of the most important aspects of coaching is keeping his wrestlers focused and fresh throughout the October to March season.

Wrestling involves all-out physical activity, and endurance is critical, says Adams. Training includes two and a half hours a day in the wrestling room, running three or four times a week — sprints, distance runs, and timed two-and-a-half to five-mile runs — and lifting weights two or three times a week.

“It's the toughest sport I've ever been in,” says Leighton Brady (SAR'04), who is in his third year with Adams, having transferred to BU after Seton Hall discontinued its wrestling program. “It's tough mentally, and it's tough physically. Coach Adams is better than any coach I've ever been with. He's helped my technique a lot. He pushes you as far as you want to go.”

Brett Frimer (CGS'06), a walk-on to the program, has been outscoring high-ranked junior and senior competitors. He says Adams has taught him that if you can succeed in wrestling, you can learn a lot about how persistence and hard work can pay off. “The coach is a good, understanding coach,” he says. “He's not all wrestle, wrestle, wrestle. I've learned that if you can get through the hard stuff, everything else just gets easier. Even though I consider myself a confident wrestler, he can instill more confidence.”

Some like it tough
In collegiate wrestling, also known as folkstyle or scholastic, bouts are seven minutes long, with a three-minute first period followed by two-minute second and third periods. The goal seems simple: to gain control of your opponent and end up on top.

Points are earned in four ways, Adams explains. Takedowns are scored when one wrestler brings the opponent down to the mat from a standing position. A wrestler earns additional points by taking the opponent down directly on his back. Reversals are scored when a wrestler who has been taken down to the mat executes a move that allows him to be in a position of control. If he is successful, he is awarded two points; he earns one point if he escapes from the hold and both grapplers end up in a neutral position. A wrestler can also score points by turning a rival's back toward the mat, breaking a 45-degree angle, and then holding the opponent in this position for two seconds.

Adams says that more than 10,000 high schools offer wrestling programs. Some participants have wrestled since they were five years old, at the pee-wee level, moving to the cadet level at age 12, then to junior high and senior high school programs. “Kids are really passionate about the sport,” says Adams, who last summer instructed 700 youngsters from 36 states in his camp program, the Carl Adams World Class Wrestling Institute. The camp, which runs from 5 to 24 days, provides instruction and skill-building workouts in takedowns, riding and pinning, escapes and reversals, and leg wrestling. “The kids will do almost anything for the sport,” he says. “The appeal is all about the competitive challenge and the fact that you can see and feel the gains you make almost on a daily basis. And that helps with an individual's personal growth.”

Those who teach can do
Adams was a four-time national champion, winning two NCAA titles at Iowa State, and after graduation, the 1973 and 1975 AAU National Freestyle Championships. He competed in the World Championships, where he placed fifth, took a silver medal in the Pan American Games, and placed third in the World Cup Championships. National Mat News named him Top Middleweight of the Decade in 1975 — although he would miss the 1976 Olympics because of a shoulder separation. He joined the Terriers in 1981; in his first season, he led the team to a 9-4 dual-meet record and a New England title, sending six wrestlers to the 1982 NCAA tournament.

But when Adams isn't coaching, wrestling is still his top priority. He's written three instructional books on wrestling techniques and philosophies, put together an instructional video series, and is an inventor of — no surprise — wrestling training equipment.

“I like being creative, and I like doing things with wrestling,” Adams says. “That's what I do in my free time. I love being in the wrestling room and on the road with the team. BU is the easiest package to sell with its program and its academics. And with the new athletic facilities, BU is just off the chart.”

To Adams, wrestling on the mat and wrestling through life go hand-in-hand. “Every time you take the mat, you risk everything,” he says. “It's just you and your opponent. But you're not going to beat everyone. Wrestling teaches you to bounce back from adversity.

“The mental drives the physical, not the other way around,” he says. “I tell my wrestlers that you don't wrestle to be average; you train to be great. If you come into a meet every time being great, you will do well, both in wrestling and in life.”


20 February 2004
Boston University
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