Days before State, Beloit coaches, teacher save student-athlete's life

Published: Feb. 28, 2020 at 11:18 PM CST
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On Wednesday, Beloit junior Cooper Adams lightly rolled around with a teammate just before practice started. Adams, a JV wrestler who had been injured, was not yet dressed out.

They stood up, and about a minute later, Adams collapsed. Beloit head coach Andy Niemczyk and assistants, Wyatt Frohling and Ryan Malay, quickly administered CPR. Garry Lowry, a Beloit teacher, rushed in with the AED.

The quartet saved Adams. As of Friday night, the family had not learned a diagnosis. He went to Wichita and is expected to go to Denver for further testing.

“Revived him, and it was by the grace of God that he revived,” Niemczyk said. “It’s a tremendous story. The kid is doing all right.”

Niemczyk has served as Beloit head wrestling coach for the last 34 years. Malay is in his 15th year as a Trojan assistant. Frohling was a head coach for 32 years, notably at WaKeeney-Trego and Russell, and been on Beloit’s staff since ’18. Niemczyk said he had never performed CPR on a kid. Malay and Frohling said it marked the first time for them.

“It was a total team effort,” Niemczyk said. “I was so proud of my assistants for what they did, and how everybody reacted. Nobody panicked, and the kids were asked to leave the room and everything worked out tremendously like it had been rehearsed.”

On Friday, Beloit was in third place with 52 points after Day 1 of the Class 3-2-1A state championships at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum. Norton led with 95, while Hoxie was second at 88. Beloit has one finalist with junior Hunter Prochaska (28-7) at 152. Beloit’s goal was a top-three finish and team trophy. Rossville is fourth at 51 points. The top-10 all have at least 40 points.

“We’ve really got to step it up if we are going to hang onto third place,” Niemczyk said.

Entering the tournament, Hoxie, Norton and Beloit were the top-three squads in the final coaches’ poll. Norton had nine qualifiers, the most of any squad, and placed three in the finals: sophomore 106-pounder Darius Shields (39-6), sophomore 120-pounder Kolton Field (31-15) and senior Cole Amlong (28-5) at 170. Field is back after he was suspended from the team last winter and finished 11-7.

“We are going to have to wrestle well out the backside,” Norton coach Bill Johnson said. “I mean, Hoxie is probably the favorite coming in by anybody’s imagination. So I am just happy to be where we are at right now.”

Shields, who was sixth as a freshman, went through tragedy last spring when his mother died. Since then, Shields has lived with the Johnsons. Johnson’s wife, Joy, wore Shields’ button on her shirt. The Johnsons have four children, three boys and one girl, all graduated from high school. All three boys won a state wrestling title.

“I am just so happy for him, because he has so much talent and so much ability,” Johnson said of Shields. “He’s a very intelligent kid, very hard-working kid, and he has been a blessing to our empty nest you might say.”

Norton has won 10 team titles from ’04-17. Hoxie has multiple top-three showings, though is looking for its first crowns since back-to-back titles in ’02 and ’03. Hoxie beat Norton at regionals last week.

“A little bit of a surprise,” Niemczyk said of Norton’s performance. “We have seen Norton and Hoxie several times throughout the season, and I give all the credit to Bill Johnson. He knows how to put together a state team, and year after year, he brings his team down here, and those kids wrestle out of their minds, and they are doing that tonight. And Hoxie has got tremendous young kids that are wrestling crazy for them, too.”

Beloit’s fan section had dozens of posters for Adams. They spelled out COOPER and “praying for Cooper!” Others said, “GOD Bless,” “Cheering for Cooper,” and “Get well.” Beloit’s team and managers had similar placards. Adams’ dad, Cris, is Beloit’s technology instructor. The USD 273 Board of Education and staff passed along a gift basket.

“There are no words to Express what I have seen from our town of Beloit,” Cris posted to Twitter. “If there is a better place or better people then I’m going to need some proof. I’m usually decent with words, but what has happened to our family and little town is beyond my understanding.”

Beloit qualified eight and believed it could medal five wrestlers. The Trojans have four guaranteed medals with sophomore 145-pounder Tate Kadel (34-9), Prochaska, sophomore 182-pounder Brennan Walker and senior Creighton Johnson (37-5) at 285. The quartet was all ranked third or fourth in its weight class.

Additionally, freshman Caden Anderson (15-16) went 1-1 and remains alive at 138. Niemczyk labeled Prochaska’s performance “huge.” Johnson lost to Sylvan-Lucas’ Tra Barrientes, 10-5, in the semifinals. Johnson fell to Barrientes in the regional tournament. In his semi, Walker narrowly fell, 8-7, to Plainville’s Jordan Finnesy, a defending state champion.

“Hoping that we can pull three other third-place medals out and that would be a great tournament for us,” Niemczyk said.