It was a dream realized for 2009 Geneseo graduate Adam Sheley when he captured the NCAA Division III wrestling national championship March 16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“I can’t imagine any better way to go out,” said Sheley. “Every year, we do a goal sheet and every year I wrote NCAA champ. The last few years it didn’t happen, but I made up my mind I wanted it more than my opponents and went out there and got it.
“It is hard to put into words. It is something I dreamt about and to have it actually happen it was surreal.”
For Sheley, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the third time was the charm as he made his third appearance at the national championships. Sheley placed sixth in 2012 and fifth in 2011. Sheley also earned his third All-America honor.
To win the 141 pound championship, Sheley, seeded third, opened with a 5-2 decision win in the first round; followed by a 7-3 decision win in the quarterfinals. He grabbed a 6-3 decision win in the semifinals to advance to the title bout where he escaped with a 2-1 decision win for the title.
“(In the finals) we traded escapes, and I was able to get an extra point in the third period because I rode my opponent longer,” said Sheley. “I think I decided I wanted to win the whole thing and not have any regrets about how my career ended was the biggest difference.
“I think because it was an NCAA title it meant more and I was maybe more excited. It was great to have my family and friends make the trip to Cedar Rapids to watch. That made it even better.”
This season, Sheley claimed wins at Coe College, 8-2; Trine College, 20-3 technical fall; Alma (no score was available); Olivet (no score was available); and UW-Platteville, pin in 1:36 (he was ranked second in the country).
At the Candlewood Suites Duals, he won by technical fall, 16-1; won 5-0; and won by technical fall, 15-0. He also grabbed wins at Luther College, 17-0 technical fall; and UW-Eau Claire, 8-2.
“I think (these four years) went a little faster than I thought,” said Sheley. “At times, I thought this would never end, but looking back it just doesn’t seem like it lasted very long. I can’t complain because I had a lot of success and I will leave with a lifetime of memories.”
At the Cliff Keen/NWCA Duals, he lost to his Dubuque opponent, 6-4; won vs. Cortland, 8-4; won vs. Coe, 10-2 major decision and won vs. Wesleyan University, 11-1 major decision. He pinned his UW-Oshkosh opponent in 2:20 (he was ranked fifth in the nation); won 3-0 decision vs. UW-Stevens Point; and won in 15-0 technical fall vs. Augsburg.
Page 2 of 3 - At the WIAC Championships, he was named the John Peterson Wrestler of the Meet and the Max Sparger Scholar-Athlete. He claimed wins over his Stevens-Point opponent 6-1 and defeated his UW-Whitewater opponent in a 4-1 decision to win his third conference title.
“I think I wrestle the same style as I did in high school, but I just made improvements and adjustments,” said Sheley. “I took my weaknesses and tried to make them strengths. I think the biggest thing for me was building confidence.”
Sheley went 3-1 in the Midwest Regional with a 22-7 technical fall, a pin in 2:06 and a 3-2 decision win. He took second place with a 3-2 decision loss in the championship.
He finished his senior season with a record of 26-2.
“The coaching staff does a really good job of getting us ready to perform at the national level, and I had battles everyday in the wrestling room,” said Sheley. “A lot of the credit goes to the staff and my teammates.”
In his junior season, Sheley went 26-5 at 133-lbs., placed sixth at nationals and first at conference.
Sheley ended his sophomore season with a record of 29-4 at 133-lbs. with seven wins by pin. He placed fifth at nationals and won his first conference title.
“I think I am a little more relaxed on the mat,” said Sheley. “I use to get so excited to score a ton of points that sometimes I would wrestle sloppy and rush, but now I am not worried if it takes longer to score points. I know it is tougher and I will have battles so I don’t want to make mistakes that are unnecessary.”
In his first year with the La Crosse wrestling team, Sheley went 5-1 at 125-lbs. and 11-3 at 133-lbs. with one win by pin. He placed second at UW-Eau Claire and fourth at the Matman Invite.
“The biggest challenge was coming off my state championship and going into my freshman year of college where I wasn’t a starter,” he said. “I was behind a two-time national champion and I wasn’t sure where I fit in or my role on the team, but the coaches worked with me so when it was my time I was ready to go.
“Everybody has doubts and that is when a lot came into my mind, but I decided I wanted to wrestle and be a starter. After watching the guys ahead of me win I knew that is where I wanted to be. I made sure when I had the opportunity I capitalized on it. I have never been a real vocal guy so I just tried to lead by example. I tried to do what I could on and off the mat to make sure my teammates had someone doing the right thing and having success.”
Page 3 of 3 - For Sheley, the final lesson he learned from his experience was what he learned this past weekend at nationals.
“I learned if you put in the hard work, dedicate yourself to something that you will get results,” he said.
Sheley ends his collegiate wrestling career at La Crosse with a record of 97-15, a national champion, a three-time All-American and a three-time conference champion.
“I have no regrets,” said Sheley. “I love my team and coaches. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. I can’t complain. I had a great time wrestling and had a lot of success that a lot of people had a hand in. I have a lot of people to thank that helped me achieve my goals.
“I am going to miss my teammates because we have a bond. It is such a tough sport that not everyone gets through it and those who stick it out have a special bond no one else has with their teammates and even wrestlers across the sport.”