LAMONI — As five Creston/Orient-Macksburg wrestlers begin their 2018 state tournament experience Thursday in Des Moines, one former Panther is training to extend his wrestling career this weekend.
Graceland University senior Kruz Adamson hopes to earn a spot in the NAIA national championships March 2-3 at Jacobson Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds when Baker University hosts the Heart of America Conference tournament Saturday in Baldwin City, Kansas.
The 2014 graduate of Creston Community High School has been a regular in the revived Graceland lineup every year — except for an injury-plagued sophomore campaign — but is still seeking his first trip to nationals.
Adamson is ready to embark on the next chapter of his life when he graduates in May and looks to work in the health and wellness industry. But, first, he wants to take that next step as a wrestler, just as he did as a senior in earning his first trip to state as a 113-pound high school senior. (Adamson injured his back in a State Dual Tournament match the day prior to the individual state tournament, and went 1-2 without placing.)
“Kruz is 8-6 this season with 33 career wins and 14 falls,” said Graceland head coach Zack Mullins. “We won’t know the conference seeding until the night before the tournament, but there are five automatic bids in our conference at 125 pounds. He has a good shot at earning one of those spots.”
“The number one kid should be the Missouri Valley kid and I had a close match with him until he caught me,” Adamson said Thursday after senior night recognition at Graceland’s final home dual meet of the season. “The William Penn kid beat me by a point (14-13) last year and he’s a two-time (national) qualifier. I just have to keep mentally focused and get all of my workouts in every day.”
Adamson is keeping up his wrestling training while continuing to earn academic honors at Graceland. As he was introduced on senior night, it was announced that he had earned honor student status (3.4 GPA) and been on the dean’s list (3.0 and above) during his time on campus.
Adamson will graduate in May, majoring in liberal studies with a minor in health and sports management.
“Right now I’ve been working on weekends for the YMCA in Waukee in their wellness center,” Adamson said. “I’m interested in the health business.”
More immediately, there’s unfinished business on the mat. Adamson was part of Panther teams that placed second, fourth, sixth and fourth in the Class 2A State Dual Tournament, and three times placed in the top five of the traditional state tournament. His freshman year, it was Adamson’s pin against Ballard that pushed the seventh-seeded Panthers into the finals.
The CCHS wrestling room under coach Darrell Frain’s direction was a good training ground for becoming a collegiate wrestler.
Among his teammates in that room were four-time state champion Jake Marlin and state champions Collin Bevins, Keaton Hulett and Chase Shiltz.
“It kind of put me in my place and I knew I had to put the work in to be successful in the sport,” Adamson said. “Especially with Marlin, Collin, Keaton and all of those guys. The expectation was high. You just had to believe in yourself. It definitely helped me, coming from Creston. Some days I was scared to go in the room! It definitely made me mentally stronger.”
Frain has followed Adamson’s career at Graceland and is proud of his achievements.
“Kruz made the adjustment to being a college wrestler,” Frain said. “I know they’ve enjoyed having him on the team. What Kruz has done, academically and in wrestling, is what you always hope for when they go on to that level. You hope they use that opportunity through wrestling to take advantage of the opportunity to get an education and make a better life for themselves.”
One of those former teammates has been reunited with Adamson on the Yellowjackets roster. Freshman Trevor Marlin is a 149-pounder gaining experience in open tournaments this season while awaiting a shot in the varsity lineup.
“Having Kruz here was a major part of me joining the team,” Marlin said. “It was good to get someone I already knew really well in the room for me to ask things like, ‘How’s it like high school?’ and ‘How did you adjust to wrestling here?’ He always had my back with things like working out and cutting weight.”
Adamson achieved third-team all-conference as a junior and placed fifth at the NAIA Central Qualifier. He led the team in wins and falls and was voted the “Most Improved” team award.
The son of Kent Adamson and the late Michelle Casteel, Kruz was introduced on senior night with his father and aunt and uncle, Tami and Kris Adamson of Creston, who had a major role in his upbringing.
It was a proud moment, and as he sat watching the meet against Truman State after receiving a forfeit victory, his mind went back to his senior year in high school when he signed a National Letter of Intent to wrestle at Graceland.
“There were a lot of emotions tonight,” Adamson said. “When I was watching tonight I realized this is the last time I’ll be here for a meet. It flew by. There were six of us seniors who built this bond to stick it out. When coach signed us he said he’s trying to build a legacy here, and if we wanted to do that, he wanted us on the team.”
Since wrestling was resumed at Graceland five years ago under Mullins, this season reached .500 (6-6) for the first time.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Adamson said. “One of my highlights here was when we won our first home dual in 32 years during my freshman season. Now, this is our first season without a losing record. Individually, I’d say a highlight was this year wrestling the Baker (University) kid who was ranked 12th in the nation. He took me down real quick and got another shot in, but he got in a bad position and I put him on his back and pinned him.
“It’s been a good year, and now I just want to end it right,” Adamson said.
Mullins is hopeful that his 125-pound senior will end his career against national competition. He appreciates Adamson’s contributions over four seasons.
“He’s always been a guy I knew was here for the right reasons and was willing to go through a wall for me,” Mullins said. “He’s not afraid to take chances in matches, which has been exciting to coach with multiple highlight-reel memories throughout his career. I’ll miss starting every dual off at 125 pounds with Kruz, trusting that he would give 100 percent effort.”