Wrestling: Olentangy Braves' Steve Adkins sees life-changing results

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Steve Adkins took up wrestling both as an extracurricular activity and a way to lose weight, and he couldn't be more pleased with the results. The Olentangy senior, who competes at heavyweight, has lost almost 90 pounds since the start of his junior season.

Steve Adkins was no stranger to sports, but he hadn’t considered joining the Olentangy wrestling team until one of his teachers made the suggestion late in his sophomore year.

It was excellent timing for Adkins, who was seeking ways to stay active and lose weight.

“They told me they could use me in the heavyweight division,” Adkins said. “I said no at first because my family only had one car and we didn’t have much money, so we had more important things to worry about. But I’m so glad I’m here now. …

“I feel great. I’m energized. I’m kind of strong.”

Thanks to a tip from intervention specialist Jamie Pollitt-Gore, the mother of 2018 Olentangy graduate and four-time Division I state qualifier Xander Gore, Adkins joined the team as a junior and made an immediate impact. While he has not won a match on the mat in two seasons, the benefits have gone far beyond those results.

Adkins has lost 89 pounds, going from 356 when he joined the team to 267 at the end of this regular season, and become a leader to whom others gravitate because of his positive attitude and willingness to advise from a teammate’s perspective.

“I’ve never seen that man upset,” teammate Ben Hall said. “When we work hard, he’s always working harder. It’s unreal how good an attitude he brings. He’s lost what, almost 100 pounds? He just keeps doing good things. I just love seeing him wrestle and that he came out for the team. He’s definitely stepped up.”

An interview Adkins conducted after a match in early February about his love of the sport with Rob Gore, Xander Gore’s father who informally covers wrestling throughout the area, was shared on Twitter and as of Feb. 18 had been viewed more than 34,500 times.

“(Adkins) is a great asset to the program. He appreciates everything you do,” coach Dennis Lyberger said. “If he loses, when he comes off the mat he says ‘I’m sorry coach’ and we know he did his best. Everybody needs to live life the way he does, with a positive attitude. He’s always happy.”

Adkins, who is autistic, played basketball through Special Olympics before high school.

His positivity extends to opponents as well. He was pinned by Pickerington Central senior Nnamdi Ikwuakam in an exhibition match Feb. 13, and even after Ikwuakam was enthusiastically greeted with hugs and high-fives by his teammates, Adkins tracked Ikwuakam down as the Tigers left the gym and gave him an extra fist bump in congratulations.

“Steve wanted to do that,” Lyberger said. “He wants everybody to have the same chances and experiences he’s had.”

Adkins and the Braves will compete in a sectional Feb. 27 at Upper Arlington. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

“It’s all about hard work. We’re always willing to work hard and when that happens, good things will happen,” Adkins said. “I enjoy being with the team. They’re great people. I just go out, work hard and try to make the team proud.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave