- Allison Farrand/Daily
By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 20, 2014
Freshman Adam Coon stared at his feet as he paced the side of the gym just moments before his match Sunday afternoon. The top two heavyweight wrestlers in the nation were about to clash, and Coon had some special fans contributing to the raucous atmosphere at Cliff Keen Arena.
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Scores of supporters from Coon’s hometown of Fowlerville, Mich., made the 45-minute trip south on US-23 to cheer on their top-ranked hometown product.
Fowlerville has a population of just under 3,000, and around 200 of them made the journey to watch their hometown hero compete on one of the biggest stages the sport has to offer.
In a crowd that one would expect to be comprised almost entirely of maize and blue there was another color dominating the stands: purple. That’s Fowlerville’s school color, and there was enough of a presence in the building to add a significant hue to the near-sellout.
According to trip coordinator Mindy Burma, about 75 people from the crowd were from a club wrestling program, where Coon had helped coach. There were also many there from Fowlerville High School and a local church.
The Fowlerville contingency contributed to a final attendance that rested at 1,354 and helped inspire what multiple Michigan officials called one of the best wrestling atmospheres in years.
Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 7-2 overall) was leading the match 16-3 heading into the 174-pound weight class, but things took a turn for the worse for the Wolverines. The 174-, 184- and 197-pound weight classes all fell to the Golden Gophers (3-1, 7-1), cutting the Michigan lead to 16-14 heading into the final match of the evening: heavyweight.
Coon and his opponent, Minnesota fifth-year senior Tony Nelson, were pacing their sidelines for minutes as the previous weight class came to a conclusion and the time finally came to decide the dual.
“I was really focused, and then saw all the purple and thought, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people supporting me,’” Coon said. “It threw my focus a little, which was good. I was getting a little too keyed up, so it helped me to get a little relaxed and realize that there was a bunch of hometown support here.”
As Coon took the mat the crowd cried “Cooooooon,” and with that, the match began. The match ended up being a low-scoring one, and it eventually wound up in a third overtime period tied, 2-2.
By that point, the anxiety in the crowd was palpable. Coon sensed it and began to take more and more chances, eventually landing a two-point takedown to win both the match and the dual for the Wolverines.
“The place erupted,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “I couldn’t hear myself think.”
For the residents of Fowlerville, their love for Coon runs deeper than his on-the-mat success.
“He’s the first high-profile wrestler to come out from Fowlerville in a while,” Burma said. “It’s given the area someone to stand behind and rally for. It creates a lot of talk in the restaurants and barber shops and the schools all mention when he’s going to be wrestling.”
According to Fowlerville residents, whenever the Michigan wrestlers have some time off in the schedule, Coon is back home working with the wrestling youth of Livingston County.
“It has certainly helped the next generation of wrestlers, especially the middle schoolers,” Burma said. “He’s quite an idol to them. Another nice thing about Adam is that he is very intelligent, so he talks to them a lot about working hard on their academics as well.”
Coon is in his first year of collegiate wrestling, and is already one of the sport’s biggest stars. In the post-match autograph session, Coon even had to have his own table and line, but to the visitors from Fowlerville he was just another friend.