“March Forth.” It’s the Williston Wrestling team’s motto, a cheer shouted after practice, a pre-match rallying cry. It’s a simple phrase, a two-word shout that has characterized senior Hunter Adams’ illustrious six-year career on the mat.
Adams, 18, recently racked up his 100th win, a feat he began tackling when he showed up at Williston in 7thgrade with no prior wrestling experience. However, he had spent enough time around his brother, Connor, and his fellow team members to know it was a sport he wanted to pursue.
“I liked the guys on the team,” Adams said. “And my brother said it’d be good for me. That’s the big thing about wrestling, it helps you with every other sport.” Adams, from Palmer, Mass., also plays football and is on the track team. He heeded his brother’s advice that “the only way to get better at wrestling is to wrestle.”
And that’s exactly what he did, from his 7th grade year, when, as wrestling coach Matt KaneLong put it, he was “a slightly smaller version of what he is now.”
Originally competing in the 113-lb. weight class, Adams and his team piled on a string of solid winning seasons. The personal wins for Adams, now in the 145lb. weight class, kept coming as well.
“In other sports, size is the biggest thing,” Adams said. “In wrestling it’s all even, no excuses. It’s on you if you win, if you lose it’s on you.”
KaneLong, Williston’s wrestling coach for the past 17 years, called Adams a “warrior,” and spoke highly of his commitment to the sport and to his own personal improvement.
“He’s a great kid, he’s in there working hard every day,” KaneLong said. “My guys in general, we’re probably the hardest working team on campus, and he’s right there in the mix. He has a sense of pride in working hard and it pays off.”
As the team continued putting up winning seasons, so did Adams. But despite the goal of reaching his 100th win, Adams said receiving that specific recognition wasn’t his top priority.
“When you’re younger [100 wins] seems so far away,” he said. “In sophomore year I was at 50, and coach KaneLong said, ‘you know, you’re on the path.’ That’s when I started kind of counting.”
Now with the 100th win under his belt, Adams has his sights set on the future, including an upcoming Class A tournament at Williston, and next year, when he’ll hit the mat as a member of the Sacred Heart University wrestling team. While he continues to confidently march forth, Adams holds a place in his heart for one particular inspiration.
His biggest influence, he said, was Brian Crockett, a former Williston history teacher who also coached football and wrestling Adams’ freshman year. Tragically, Crockett died at 22, before the end of the school year, from a heart problem.
Adams recalled when, as a freshman, he got knocked out during the first day of the New England Wrestling Championships. “He came over and said, ‘You can do this, you belong here. You can’t give up now, you’re only halfway there.’ I think he’s had one of the biggest impacts on me and a lot of people at this school.”
Visibly choked up, Adams displayed the school newspaper’s announcement of Crockett’s passing, which he keeps in his wallet. Crockett, Adams pointed out, went to the hospital on March 2, 2014. Two days later, March 4th, he was gone. March forth. The team motto, the chant to keep going.
It holds special significance for Adams.
“He’s always a reminder to me to keep you head up and keep pushing forward,” Adams said, recalling that Crockett’s funeral in New Jersey, which he attended, was not a dark, dire day but a celebration of his former coach’s power and positivity.
His influence is as strong now as it was three years ago. Before Adams heads to college, he plans to honor Crockett’s memory by getting a tattoo of Crockett’s initials over his heart