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Millard South's Joel Adams adds world title to his collection of wrestling medals

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When Joel Adams left home last week, he had questions about how he would stack up on the international stage.

The wrestler will come back next week with some resounding answers.

The Millard South senior added a world title to his growing collection of golds after winning the 65-kilogram Greco-Roman crown at the under-17 world championships in Rome. Adams ran through his bracket, outscoring opponents 36-0, to become the second American to win his weight class at the event in the past 25 years.

“When I was flying into Rome, I was unsure,” he said. “And now, I’m leaving Rome feeling like that if I put my head to whatever I want, I can do that.”

It took one match — an 8-0 win over a wrestler from Japan — for Adams to erase any doubt.

“I went out there and tore it up,” he said. “I was like ‘OK, now I feel like I belong on this stage. I’m not an outsider, not an outcast.’”


Millard South's Joel Adams after winning the Class A 145-pound title in 2022.

Shutouts over wrestlers from Switzerland, Georgia and Ukraine set up a finals showdown with Ahoura Bouveiri of Iran last Tuesday. It was more of the same as Adams outworked Bouveiri for a 6-0 victory and the world championship.

After a couple of days to reflect on his accomplishments, Adams said it still didn’t seem real.

“It feels like I did something that was impossible,” he said. “Especially since I didn’t give up a single point. At that level, wrestling at the world level, and not giving up a point, it’s almost unheard of.”

He said he’ll return to the U.S. not just a different wrestler, but a different person.

“I had so many thoughts going in,” Adams said of his pretournament mindset. “One day I’d walk into practice and think ‘I’m going to be a world champion, I feel great, I’m going to kill (this).’ And other days I’d walk in and think ‘I don’t have a chance.’ Some days I’d wake up feeling like a world champ, and other days I’d wake up feeling like I wasn’t even going to win a medal.

“Winning worlds was a goal, but I had so many doubts about it. And now that I actually did it, that gives me so much more confidence.”

The international success has also brought a handful of potential NIL deals. Adams already has one in place with a supplement company, but said a others could be coming shortly.

“When I get back, I’m going to be living a movie,” he said.

A busy summer circuit now turns to a fall stretch that will include a college commitment. Adams said he has official visits lined up, and will make his decision in September or October. He’ll wait until his lengthy offer list is trimmed to five before making it public.

It puts the cherry on top of a successful summer for Adams and a collection of Nebraska wrestlers.

Club teammate Kael Lauridsen, a Nebraska commit, finished as a double All-American at the Junior national championships in Fargo, North Dakota, for the second consecutive year.

Lauridsen, ranked No. 4 in the nation at 120 pounds by MatScouts, won back-to-back Greco national championships, beating along the way future Husker teammate Alan Koehler out of Minnesota — who is ranked 10th — 11-2 in the semifinal. Lauridsen finished fifth in the freestyle portion of the event.

And he wasn’t the only Nebraskan to come back with the prestigious stop sign hardware.

Lincoln East graduate Keith Smith won his first Fargo title, grabbing gold in the 138-pound Greco bracket.

The state also had a pair of finalists in the under-16 Greco portion in Cole Welte of Omaha Skutt and Blair’s Hudson Loges. The two fell in championship matches.


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Nick covers high school soccer, wrestling and other sports for The World-Herald.

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