WVU Wrestling Coach: ‘Sometimes One Guy Can Turn A Program Around, And I Think That’s Noah’
Noah Adams was a step away from the top of the mountain when his climb suddenly was halted.
West Virginia’s sophomore wrestler was 32-0 on the season, had captured the Big 12 Conference title for the 197-pound weight class and was named the conference’s wrestler of the year.
It was an incredible campaign for the Coal City, West Virginia, native, and he had one more momentous step left – an NCAA championship.
Adams was the No. 2 seed in the 197-pound bracket with only No. 1 Kollin Moore (27-0) of Ohio State ranked ahead of him prior to NCAAs in Minneapolis March 19-21.
But neither Adams, Moore nor any other collegiate wrestler got a chance to compete at the U.S. Bank Stadium this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down that event and most other large gatherings throughout the U.S. and around the world.
“We were pretty confident most of the year that Noah could compete for a national championship, just based on how he was wrestling and how he had performed in big-time tournaments,” said WVU coach Tim Flynn. “The sky was the limit for a guy like that.”
Moore would have been a significant challenge for Adams. The Buckeyes’ fifth-year senior held a 110-11 career record, had earned three Big Ten championships (2017, 2018 and 2020) and was an NCAA runner-up last year, but Adams’ own dominance this year was nothing to overlook.
“There are good kids everywhere, and that’s why the NCAAs are such an unpredictable event, but I’m sure Noah would have done well. I would have liked to have seen it,” said Flynn, who completed his second season as the Mountaineers’ coach.
Adams became only the second WVU wrestler to ever finish a season undefeated, joining Greg Jones, who did it twice (2004 and ’05).
Along the way this year Adams defeated 13 ranked wrestlers and captured four tournament titles.
“The first time I saw Noah he was in high school and he came to a camp we had when I still was at Edinboro,” remembered Flynn, who was the head coach for the Fighting Scots from 1997-2008 before accepting the job at West Virginia. “He was young, maybe a sophomore in high school, and he was already a big, athletic kid. He was wrestling an older kid at camp who had already committed to us, Dakota Geer, who was from Franklin, Pennsylvania. Dakota is now at Oklahoma State, and Noah just beat him. Anyway, they were wrestling in camp, and we knew how good Geer was, but I kept watching Noah, thinking, ‘Wow, this West Virginia kid is pretty good.’
“When I got down here (shortly after the 2007-08 season), my first impression was he wasn’t in very good shape,” admitted Flynn. “He had redshirted, and I don’t really know what he had been doing. But we knew what we had because I had seen him in high school.”
As a redshirt freshman last season, Adams posted a record of 19-15, but that was barely scratching the surface for what was to come as a sophomore.
“A lot people ask me about his big step from 19-15 to 32-0,” noted Flynn, who is a 1987 graduate of Penn State. “It wasn’t one thing. He got a little bit better in his strength and conditioning on top of improving his speed. It was a little bit in every area that led to one big, giant step.”
While Adams had great individual success this past season, as a team Flynn is still building WVU’s entire wrestling program. His squad went 4-14 and finished ninth in the 12-team Big 12 Championships in 2018-19. This year with a very young lineup that typically started one senior, one junior, five sophomores and three freshmen, the Mountaineers posted a 4-12 mark and were 10th at the Big 12 Championships.
“We need more Noahs,” stated Flynn. “Every sport is different, but it’s the same in many ways – you need talent. That’s why we spend so much time recruiting. We were young, though, and we’re getting better.
“I’ve said that if Noah Adams doesn’t win another match – though, thankfully we have him for two more years – he’s kickstarted our program with the season he had,” continued WVU’s coach. “Recruits look at him and realize they can win at a high level here as well, and that may not have been the case before.
“From that standpoint, he’s been huge. He helps us in recruiting and helps us bring in more fans. He’s also developing into a leader. Sometimes one guy can turn a program around, and I think that’s Noah.”