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Dakota Adams

Beatrice's Dakota Adams is congratulated by his coach Jordan Johnson after qualifying for state Saturday.

Dakota Adams threw it out to his friends on Friday night, jokingly, he says.

What if he qualified for the state wrestling meet?

"They kind of laughed at me," the Beatrice 182-pound junior said Wednesday.

It was all said in good nature. Kids ribbing each other. But Adams did face a tough challenge.

He didn't take up wrestling until about three months ago and was about to face some experienced opponents. He entered districts at 6-22, and any chance of getting to state meant having to beat three opponents with winning records.

On Friday night, Adams and his teammates were joking about it. On Saturday night, they were celebrating over dinner. 

If the state tournament needed a true underdog story, it got one in Adams, who punched his ticket to the state tournament. He secured his spot with an 11-8 decision in the heartbreak round in the B-1 district at Platteview.

"I just couldn't believe it when it happened," said Adams, who plays football for the Orangemen. "My first year wrestling, and I'm going to state. It was just amazing to hear everyone cheering and all pumped for me."

It was a moment Adams will not likely forget, especially considering he had no idea what to expect when the season started.

"I didn't really have state in mind when I first started," said Adams, who was one of four Beatrice wrestlers to qualify for state. "I didn't think I'd be on varsity when I first started, but just kept learning as much as I could, and kept getting better and better."

So, what got Adams interested in wrestling late in the process?

"Coaches," head coach Jordan Johnson said.

They saw a kid who worked his tail off in the weight room and wanted him on the team. Over and over, they tried talking him into taking up the sport from his freshman year on. Finally, Adams decided to join the team after football season.

"I figured going out for wrestling would be good, get me to get quicker and build up my endurance before going into summer training for football," he said.

Naturally, Adams had some growing pains. He'd learn something new in every practice. During every match.

But then Adams started catching on. He started closing the gap, scorewise, during matches, and everything started to click. Confidence was building.

"It's a lot of technique, especially for a first-year wrestler," Johnson said of the learning curve for Adams. "But also, you've got kind of be a psychologist, because sometimes those first-year wrestlers, they don't see the process when the losses are adding up. It was keeping him positive, and watching him grow and kind of showing him where he's growing and where he could get better."

At this time last year, Adams was likely in the weight room. Now he'll be stepping foot onto the floor at CHI Heath Center Omaha when the state tournament begins Thursday. The Class B session is in the evening.

Adams enters the tournament at 9-24, and he'll see fourth-ranked Alec Langan of McCook in the opening round.

Adams said he doesn't know if he'll get this moment again, though, he added he plans to go out for wrestling as a senior and will have bigger goals. His plan is to enjoy the experience this week.

"Nobody thought I could make it this far, so I'm going out there with nothing to lose, and hopefully I can work through the bracket somewhere," Adams said.

Johnson's advice: "Just take it in. There's kids that wrestle their whole life that don't get to go, so take it in and enjoy. You can't control anything else. You can't automatically know more than you know, so just go out and do your best."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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