Rich Nelson probably had a lot of reasons why he got his son, Gavin, involved in wrestling back in elementary school.
“He wanted me to be real good when I got older,” said Gavin, a junior at Clay. “I never really took it that serious. I think I just did it because my dad wanted me to. It’s starting to pay off. It hasn’t paid off yet, but it will.”
Nelson, a 5-foot-6 bundle of confidence and energy, waited his turn while wrestling for the Eagles’ Green team the past two seasons. He has quietly turned himself into one of coach Ralph Cubberly’s top wrestlers.
|Clay junior Gavin Nelson closes in on a pin. (Submitted photo)
Nelson, who competes on the Gold team at 132 pounds, took a 16-3 record into the new year.
“He just dominates kids,” Cubberly said. “He has a non-stop motor. He just goes. He’s just strong and he’s a tough wrestler. He’s a pleasant surprise for me. I knew he was going to be good, but I didn’t know he was going to be this good.”
Nelson kicked off the season by going 4-0 at a duals tournament at Cincinnati Moeller High School in November. He beat a state qualifier in overtime and also defeated an Illinois state champion during that event.
A year ago, Nelson went 26-8 at 126 pounds on the Green team while he waited his turn behind senior Mike Screptock, who placed seventh at the state tournament. Ironically, Screptock’s younger brother, Richie, is Nelson’s workout partner.
“It stunk,” said Nelson, whose brother Caleb is a sophomore on the Green team. “I wanted to be on the Gold team. There was nothing I could do about it. It was kind of like redshirting in a way, where I just get a lot practice in. Now it’s my turn, and that practice (regimen) built up and I’m ready to use all that skill I learned in the last two years.”
Cubberly said Nelson has a combination of skill, the will to work hard and determination.
“He has major dedication to the sport of wrestling,” the coach said. “He didn’t complain and cry or moan about not starting his first two years. He got better and better. He improved his technique and physical strength because he knew he was behind a couple good guys.
“He had to put in his time at that level and wait for his chance. That chance is now, his junior year. Most people have an ‘I want it now’ mentality. Gavin’s not like that. He said, ‘I’ll wait until it’s my turn and I’ll be prepared,’ and boy is he prepared. I think he has an opportunity to make the state tournament if he keeps working hard. He’s going to be one of those guys people don’t know about.”
Nelson, who placed seventh at the Brecksville Tournament on Dec. 21-22, has not been pinned this season but he said he knows he has to refine his technique from the bottom position. He said he feels comfortable wrestling on top and on his feet.
His goal for the rest of this season is to take things one match at a time, listen to what his coaches tell him and, hopefully, make the podium at the state tournament in early March.
“I think I have a chance at top eight if I keep doing what I’m doing,” Nelson said. “My coaches have told me I have what it takes and I could be something some day and I could be good. I started to put some more (effort) into it, then more. I worked harder and kept getting better results. Now, I just love it and I want to keep going farther and farther.”