Fresh off a seventh-place finish at state a year prior, now sophomore JT Adams was looking for his next weight class in his wrestling career.
The three-sport athlete sat down with head coach Dee Leavell and figured out the 195-pound class would give Adams the best chance to succeed throughout the year.
“This year, Dee told me from the start, ‘If you wrestle the way you can wrestle, 195 will be your weight class,’ ” Adams said. “From there, I just bought in, kept my head down and kept grinding.”
Adams hit the ground running in 195 and his year as a whole, capped off with a state championship is why he is this year’s Planter’s Bank Kentucky New Era wrestling Athlete of the Year.
Throughout the year, Adams had continued success sitting at 11-2 on the year. A first-place finish in the South Oldham Dragon Invitational opened his eyes to a potential championship run.
Adams followed that up with a Region One Championship, pinning Union County’s Paxton Ervin in the regional championship match.
“Winning region was great, but winning it at Union against a Union wrestler — a rival basically — made it that much sweeter,” Adams said.
From there, Adams rolled through the semi-state round and found himself just three wins away from a state crown.
Going into the state finals, he said he was confident going into the final tournament after a good week of preparation.
“My confidence level was pretty high — we prepared really well the week going in,” Adams said. “I had my teammates with me and I had one of my practice partners with me in (TyDarius) Kelly. We really drilled through it and envisioned the tournament match by match.”
In the state finals, Adams held off Fern Creek’s Joel Hatchett, Anderson County’s Dyllan Davis and Fairdale’s Jerry Simpson to capture his first state championship and gave Christian County its third state champion in as many years (Jakerion Merritt in 2019, Niko Bussell in 2020).
“Right after I won, I was pretty emotional, but it probably didn’t hit until super late at night when we got back,” he said. “I was in my bedroom thinking, ‘Wow, I really just did what I said I wanted to do.’ ”
While winning the state title is a massive moment to Adams, it meant a lot more to him to have his father John Adams in his corner to celebrate with him.
“That moment will probably always be with me,” he said. “He’s always been there with me with wrestling. He’s always been in my corner, always wanted to be in my corner and it was a surreal moment. It really hit home with me.”
With two years to go and a title already under his belt, Adams said he’s going to continue to grown and build off the big win.
“I’ll always feel that thought of having to go win it now that I’ve won one,” Adams said. “But when I step up for a match I tell myself it’s my match, go out and wrestle a match and go dominate.”