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Pete's Point: Road Crew's Adkins wrestles memorable match

Every so often there's a moment that sports fans will never forget. One of those occasions happened on Saturday, Feb. 21, at a gymnasium in Perham. High school wrestlers, coaches and fans attending the Section 8AA individual competition probably ...

Road Crew wrestler Nate Adkins, left, defeated Sauk Centre/Melrose's Will Funk in the true second match at 145 pounds at the Section 8AA meet on Saturday, Feb. 21, in Perham. Submitted photo
Road Crew wrestler Nate Adkins, left, defeated Sauk Centre/Melrose's Will Funk in the true second match at 145 pounds at the Section 8AA meet on Saturday, Feb. 21, in Perham. Submitted photo

Every so often there's a moment that sports fans will never forget.

One of those occasions happened on Saturday, Feb. 21, at a gymnasium in Perham.

High school wrestlers, coaches and fans attending the Section 8AA individual competition probably won't soon forget the drama of the 145-pound true second match between Pequot Lakes/Pine RIver-Backus Road Crew wrestler Nate Adkins and Will Funk of Sauk Centre/Melrose.

Adkins earned a 7-6 overtime decision over Funk in the true second match that determined which wrestler would be advancing to the Class AA state individual meet.

But it's how Adkins earned the victory is the unforgettable story.

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The Road Crew junior had battled numerous medical issues the past few years - like a concussion and leg injury along with lyme disease and asthma.

After missing part of the season, Adkins returned just before the section team and individual competition. He wasn't 100 percent healthy, but he wanted to contribute in the postseason.

Adkins had a goal of returning to state as an individual wrestler, but he was seeded fourth and would need to finish in the top two positions in a competitive section weight class that featured five wrestlers with more than 30 wins on the season.

Adkins did lose to eventual 145 champion Nate Mergen on Friday, but he bounced back on Saturday and earned a true second match against Funk, who had eliminated Adkins in a close match in the section individual semifinals last year.

Saturday's true second battle between Adkins and Fund was one of the final matches of the day with the winner advancing to state.

"I was just thinking that win or lose I was going to leave everything out there," said the 17-year-old Adkins, who has battled asthma issues since seventh grade.

Road Crew coach Travis Hoffarth added that Adkins was a success just making it to the true second match.

"Nate was in high spirits going into the match because he had battled back and reached his goal at a chance at state," Hoffarth said. "He was battling a lot of things behind the scenes, like some breathing problems. But he continued to climb the mountain, and before the (true second) match I told him this is where we put the flag at the top."

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Funk assumed a 2-0 lead early in the second period. About that time Adkins was short of breath and had his first opportunity to use his inhaler without a penalty. Adkins came back to take a 3-2 lead at the buzzer ending the second period, and then Funk fell behind 4-2 before capitalizing late and tying the match 4-4 to force overtime.

"I could tell Nate was in rough shape in overtime and he needed the inhaler," Hoffarth said.

The second time a wrestle takes an inhaler break in a match then he surrenders position choice, and Funk chose the down position. The first overtime is sudden death, which meant Adkins needed to hang onto Funk to avoid escape points to end the match.

"Nate did a good job of holding on for a whole minute," Hoffarth said.

The second overtime format features a pair of 30-second rounds where each wrestler has a choice of position. Funk took advantage of his choice and took a 6-4 lead on a reversal, but he was also charged with a penalty point for his third caution which reduced his lead to 6-5.

"Nate had new life for his 30-second go," Hoffarth said. "He chose the down position. The fans were on their feet realizing that Nate needed one point to tie and two to win."

The other true second matches in the gym were over by this point, including Road Crew teammates Dillon Nichols and Joe Harrison both winning and advancing to state. The remaining fans, with the exception of the Sauk Centre/Melrose supporters of Funk, were now cheering for an exhausted Adkins.

"Nate got a reversal as time expired," Hoffarth explained of the two-point move. "It was close, and the referees got together for about 30 seconds to discuss their decision. As they talked, the crowd was chanting "two, two, two." When they finally signaled to award the two points, the place erupted."

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Adkins had won 7-6, and he was quickly surrounded by fans.

"There were a lot of tears at that point," Hoffarth said. "It's an awesome experience for a kid who has worked so hard, and battled through when most people would have said 'I can't do this.'

"So many things had happened to Nate this year. It was one thing after another. But he was so determined, and in the end his hand was raised in victory."

Despite his breathing issues, Adkins managed to defeat four opponents at sections who had a combined 127-32 record this season.

"It really helped with the crowd cheering for me," Adkins said. "I thought I was going to pass out at times, but I could see the crowd. It was an awesome experience."

Hoffarth added the emotional match was memorable.

"We've had a lot of awesome moments with our program." Hoffarth said. "Nate's win wasn't just about an individual making it to state. He was able to somehow get everyone in the gym on his side. It as an individual accomplishment, but also a team victory. It showed how much our kids care about each other."

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