A young wrestler with the heart of a champion now has the title to prove it.
Adonis Lattimore, 17, a Virginia high school senior, was born with no right leg, a partial left leg and one finger on his right hand. But he won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state championship in the 106-pound weight class.
"It really was just a rush of emotions. Tears, a little bit of tears running down my face, and just excitement that I accomplished my goal," Adonis says.
He outscored his opponent 5-1 in the finals after a 4-3 victory in the semifinals. Adonis finished this season with a 32-6 record.
The crowd, coaches and team went wild as he won his last high school match; however, the victory came as no surprise to Adonis or the community around him, as he's never shied away from a challenge.
"The challenges are sort of like the doubters who are people that didn't think I'd be able to compete in the sport or be good at it all," Adonis says. "[I] really just take a mindset that I wanna prove these people wrong, no matter what."
This accomplished athlete set his sights on wrestling early when he brought home a flyer for the wrestling team in second grade. Jerrold Lattimore, Adonis' father and one of the head coaches on the team, was completely on board with his son's new goal.
"I guess before he even brought the flyer home, the whole thought for me was to try to figure out something that he could compete in that didn't require him to have adaptive equipment or assistance or anything of that nature. So that was kind of my thought, and I wanted him to know what it felt like to be involved with the team and to be on the team,” Lattimore says. “So when the wrestling flyer came home, it was kind of like it was a no-brainer."
Adonis felt like wrestling came naturally to him. He often roughhoused with his family, and when he officially joined the sport, he trained in and out of season, striving to be the healthiest, strongest version of himself.
"In season, it was six days of practice, one day of lifting on Sunday, and just any conditioning workouts such as pushups, running, I run in my wheelchair, and situps. And that was my entire workout season," Adonis says. "And then off-season, I do runs at Mount Trashmore and lifting every other day."
As in most sports, the team bonded over years of hard work and the ups and downs on the wrestling mat. Wrestling can be emotionally, as well as physically, taxing. In middle school, Adonis had a string of defeats; however, he battled through that slump to get back on track, helped by his teammates and coaches, who became some of his biggest supporters.
"It's been like my own secondary family, just having them always encouraging me and pushing me to continue get better," Adonis says.
For his father, Adonis' determination and success are a huge source of pride, though he recognizes the role of others.
"It's really been an effort from a village, not just, you know, Adonis on his own, just doing his own thing and just arriving at this point. It's truly taken a group of believers," Lattimore says. "And so I just want to say thank you for believing in us and giving us an opportunity to even be able to compete and just to step out and show the world that anything is possible and anything is doable."
Adonis has grown up believing that if he put in the hard work, the results would follow. Wrestling has been an incredible way to demonstrate that. His advice to new wrestlers looking to join the sport is that all the sacrifice is worth it.
"It's going to be tough," he says. "Sticking it out is gonna be one of the best experiences at the end of the journey for you."
Adonis plans to wrestle in college and see where it takes him. He says his inspirational journey is far from over.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wrestler wins state championship against all odds