Over the past five years, it has been impossible to discuss the Michigan wrestling program without mentioning Adam Coon. Since his first day in Ann Arbor, the fifth-year senior has won over the hearts of the Wolverine faithful with his dominance on the mat and his genuine and strong personality off it.
Now, as he prepares to leave Michigan, Coon sifts through a world of opportunities. One of those opportunities, and arguably the most prominent, consists of sticking to what he knows and further developing his already-legendary wrestling career.
If Coon were to continue to wrestle, it would no doubt be in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.
That preparation isn’t an unfamiliar process for the heavyweight, as he attempted to represent his country in 2016. Dogged by a shoulder injury, Coon fell one match short of making the team. Now, with another year of collegiate wrestling under his belt and his health returned, this could be the chance for Coon to realize his Olympic dreams.
However, this time the road doesn’t lead through Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder — an Olympic gold medalist and two-time NCAA Champion. The wrestlers compete in different weight classes in the Olympics, as they sit 60 pounds apart.
Over the years, the Coon v. Snyder matches have been collegiate wrestling’s biggest gladiator showdowns. Wrestling three times in their last year of eligibility, the top-ranked college heavyweights became familiar with each other on the mat. In their series, Snyder bested Coon, 2-1, with Coon stealing a match from the Olympian in front of a record-breaking Michigan crowd.
Despite wrestling with a 60-pound deficit, Snyder then stepped up when it counted most and defeated Coon to win the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Now, Coon hopes to take the adversarial edge off their relationship.
After all, Coon has another foe to worry about if he wants to make it on the Olympic team: two-time NCAA Champion and 2017 World Championship bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski.
“I’d like to think that (Snyder and I) can be each other’s teammates rather than opponents,” Coon said. “But he’s most likely gonna make the team, and I have a really tough opponent in front of me to make the team. So, I’m hoping we can train together and learn from each other and we both get better. So, I hope we can be civil about it and stuff and not be each other’s opponent, but see how we can make each other better.”
Another option for the 285-pound wrestler is football. Yes, you read that right. Full contact, professional football.
Due to his size and remarkable athleticism, Coon has been drawing the attention of some NFL teams who are interested in recruiting him to play offensive line.
While he didn’t play in college, Coon is no stranger to the gridiron. In high school, he was named an all-state linebacker his senior year and a two-time all-state honorable mention offensive lineman.
If he were to select the football route, Coon wouldn’t be the only collegiate wrestler to make the jump to the pros. Many NFL greats wrestled in either high school or college. Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was a two-time Florida state wrestling champion and all-pro fullback Lorenzo Neal was an NCAA Champion.
“It’s more just about seeing if there’s any interest, and then we’re gonna move forward if that’s the route I want to take,” Coon said.
Whatever he ends up doing, Coon will most definitely always have a home at Michigan. Departing as a two-time NCAA runner-up and three-time All-American, it’s hard to imagine a greater face for the wrestling program. He has given wrestling fans plenty to smile about while serving as a role model for the next generation of Wolverines. As he leaves, he offers sound advice to the students who will occupy the Bahna Wrestling Center after him.
“Wrestling (in college) is a lot more mental than in high school,” Coon said. “It’s being able to put up with the grinds in the middle of the season and then just realizing that your life is not just wrestling. There’s a lot more to life than just wrestling and if your whole life is based on wrestling, then frankly, you’ve lived a sad life, in my opinion.”
Also beyond wrestling, Coon is an aerospace engineering student who is constantly trying to keep his mind sharp.
“I’d like to get into some kind of research or something just to keep the wheels going as well as develop stuff,” Coon said, “so when I do end up going for a career after this, that I’m not one of those guys that just wrestles or plays football, that I have those skills in place so that if I need to use them that I’m ready to go, that type of thing.”
Whether Coon decides to spend his next few years on the mat, on the practice field or in a cubicle, it is apparent he will give it everything he’s got. But for now, he just needs to pick a path.
“I know that what I want to do is finish up schooling here,” Coon said, “and then we’ll see where God takes me.”