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Confidence Propels Wright

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: March 18, 2005
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March 18, 2005

NORFOLK - It sprung on him as quickly as a double-leg takedown, the confidence needed to make the jump from a decent Colonial Athletic Association wrestler to a potential All-American.

In one match on one day in November, Adam Wright's entire mindset flipped.

The former Turner Ashby standout went out in his first match of the year at the Missouri Open facing the No. 5 wrestler in the country on his home mat.

Wright, a 184-pound junior at Old Dominion, defeated Mizzou's Matt Pell in the opening round.

"I'm sure it had a lot to do with it because he hadn't beaten anybody good," first-year coach Steve Martin said. "In high school, Virginia is an average wrestling state. The next weekend, he beat a kid from Indiana."

Considering the Big 12 and Big 10 are two elite national wrestling conferences - those wins became huge.

And it made the 2002 Group AA champion believe in himself - enough to spur him to a 30-8 record entering this weekend's CAA tournament as the No. 2 seed in his weight class.

"It propelled me," Wright said. "I knew I could wrestle with the elite wrestlers in my weight class and it made me work harder to become an All-American this year, one of my main goals."

To do that, he must first qualify for the NCAA tournament, where he was an alternate last year after finishing third in the CAAs.

Part of what makes him so good, Martin said, is Wright's athletic ability. He was also a state champion pole vaulter at TA. Last season he won matches based mostly on his athletic skill and defensive ability. Now, he's added offensive manuevers to his arsenal.

All of this is still very new for the engineering major from Dayton, one who refused to believe he possessed this sort of potential.

Thanks to Martin, who coached at perennial high school power Great Bridge before this season, and his opening-match win, he does.

"I didn't imagine this," Wright said. "I thought I'd be an average wrestler at most coming into college and winning a few matches here or there. [TA wrestling coach John] Fincham always told me that he saw a lot in me when I was in high school. I didn't really believe him."

When he first moved from his horse-and-buggy town to metropolitan Norfolk, the Country Music Television-watcher in him didn't mesh with his new surroundings.

But his ultra-personable side did, allowing for a smooth transition, even if he is the sole country boy on the Monarchs' roster.

"We like to give him a hard time about that," said former teammate Matt Ulrey, Wright's best friend before transferring to Michigan State. "He's the NASCAR fan, a homegrown kid. He'd rather sit and watch NASCAR than do something else."

Ulrey and Wright lived together for two years. In that time, Ulrey saw Wright's focus for engineering and wrestling - and his commitment to each.

The old roommate said Wright always would have a book cracked or be working on some sort of move.

If there is one knock on Wright, it's that he needs to become tougher. His friendly nature doesn't jibe with the typical thoughts of wrestlers. Ulrey couldn't remember ever seeing someone mad at the 20-year-old, which is rare around a bunch of people who compete in such a combative sport.

"I was kind of surprised because he was the nicest kid on the team," Ulrey said. "No one ever got upset with him."

And with his performance this year - about the only people who get mad are Wright's opponents.

"He's good," JMU wrestler Jason Chalfont said. "He's strong. He's got good technique. He gets in good position and is a good wrestler."

Now, though, Wright finally believes it. And he's closer to becoming an All-American.

"That needs to happen this year," Martin said. "I don't' think you can wait to next year. It's a realistic goal but he's got to get hot to do it.

"He's already beaten a kid who was ranked fifth at the time so he's shown he can do it. Whether he can is between his ears."

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