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Alston Nutter, Fennimore wrestling
Alston Nutter is trading in his maroon and gold singlet for a red, white and blue one. He is foregoing his junior and senior seasons at Fenimore High School to enroll at Northern Michigan University’s Greco Roman wrestling Olympic Training Site.
Nutter will depart Fennimore for Marquette, Michigan, later this month. There he will attend Marquette Senior High School – home to 1,000 students – during the day and train with some of the nation’s best Greco Roman wrestlers at night.
The move, although bittersweet for Fennimore wrestling fans, is the next step in a process he hopes ends with trips to the medal stand on the world stage.
“It has been a really tough decision for sure, yeah,” Nutter said. “Leaving my family, friends and everybody back here. It is really tough. But I realize if I want to reach my goals in life I have to do this.”
Nutter was already an accomplished folkstyle wrestler when he took an interest in Greco Roman wrestling as a seventh grader. Success soon followed. He finished eighth in Cadet competition at the USA Wrestling Cadet Greco-Roman National Championships as an eighth grader and second as a freshman.
“Once I started doing well I thought, ‘Maybe I can do something in this sport someday,’” Nutter said. “Then I really started to work and I keep getting closer and closer every time.”
What draws Nutter to Greco-Roman wrestling?
“It is so technical. It is a lot of fun,” he said. “I love the fact that you can pick kids up and throw them over your head. I think that is one of the coolest things in the world.”
Nutter earned a silver medal at Netherlands Greco Easter Battle last year and won silver at the Malar Cup of Greco-Roman at Vasteras, Sweden, last November. He also earned a silver medal during a competition in Spain earlier this year.
“I think things went pretty well [in Spain],” he said. “I learned quite a bit from the international styles — I have stuff to work on. I picked up a lot of new little things that I learned could be a gamechanger.”
Shortly after his return from Spain Nutter was invited to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I started working on all those new techniques I picked up and the little things I needed to work on and I really started to come along after that,” he said. “It is the smallest things in Greco that can be the difference — like hand position on lifts.”
Nutter suffered an arm injury while training for June’s UWW Greco-Roman Nationals (Cadet World Team Trials).
“When it was first injured I thought, ‘This is no big deal.’ But then it started swelling up a lot and I thought, ‘This is really, really starting to hurt,’” Nutter recalled. “That is when I really got nervous and I told my dad.”
Diagnosed with an infection, Nutter was treated with antibiotics in the weeks prior to the World Team Trials. Nutter defeated two All-Americans at the World Team Trials before losing a 6-5 decision to Jason Renteria, who is now the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 132 pounds.
“I had him beat the whole match. I got beat in the last 10 seconds of the match,” Nutter said. “I was up the whole time.”
Nutter re-injured his arm during his second victory at the World Team Trials. He nearly won a consolation match wrestling with one functional arm. That was no consolation.
“My goal since the last team trials when I took second was, ‘I am going to make this team for sure next year,’” Nutter said. “I fell short of that. That hurt pretty bad.”
His arm hurt as well. Diagnosed with a Morel-Lavallée lesion, Nutter rested the arm for eight weeks. When he was cleared to resume training late last month he returned to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
Accompanying Nutter on his visits to the Olympic Training Center has been coach Lucas Steldt of Combat Wrestling. Nutter began working with Steldt in 2013.
“Alston has taken advantage of opportunities offered to him along the way and this
is just one of them,” Steldt said. “He has had a high school state championship and All-American honors at the world’s largest tournament. Most would consider these accomplishments, in his process these are just byproducts of his training. Alston is working on making World Teams, winning World medals, making Olympic Teams and winning Olympic medals. His aspirations are much more than words and birthday wishes. There are people that really believe in Alston’s abilities and potential. These people are making an investment into Alston Nutter for many reasons. He’s athletic and intelligent, but most of all when put into a room with higher-level athletes he acclimates very quickly. That’s the separation criteria.”
One that believes in Nutter is U.S. Olympic Team coach Matt Lindland.
“I have gotten to know Alston over the last two years,” Lindland said. “Alston and his coach, Lucas Steldt, make it a point to attend all the training camps in Colorado as well as the opportunities in Marquette.”
What sets Nutter apart from his peers?
“The truth is not many young athletes have the longterm vision that Alston has.
Any athlete can make the same decisions that Alston has,” Lindland said. “Alston has different goals than most of his peers. While athletes his age are dreaming about winning a state title or get recruited to a wrestling program in college. Alston has set himself apart by perusing bigger long-term goals of being an Olympic champion for his country. Along that route he is working on winning Cadet and Junior world championships. Alston has a much bigger picture and that there is a whole world out there he is competing against, and he wants to be the best in the world. The great thing is Alston has a family that supports his goal.”
Alston’s family includes his father, Jamie; mother, Stacey; brothers Aidan and Amryn, and sister Alexa.
“The toughest thing for us is kids grow up quick enough. From a selfish standpoint, if we could have it our way, it would be nice to keep him another two years and then still have these opportunities afterward,” Jamie said. “But when these opportunities are there and Alston has committed to this lifestyle and he has proven he can keep up on the school work, that he can be dedicated, he has earned a lot of trust to be able to do this. We support him.”
Jamie has been asked recently, “What if it doesn’t work out?” What has been his reply?
“Well then it doesn’t work out. There are a lot of things in life that we do where we make mistakes, and if we live our entire life worrying about failing then we are never going to accomplish anything,” he said. “Alston is giving up a lot to do this. He knows what is out there and he knows what the risks are and he knows now that he has to grow up a lot sooner than he would have if he would have chosen a different path.
“I admire him for taking this risk, but again, if I had my choice I would like to keep my son at home a couple more years and I think Stacey would agree with that. But this is his choice and he is going for it.”
Alston does not hesitate to praise Steldt for his help in pushing him toward his goals.
“He has definitely pushed me and he has taught me technique and everything I know about Greco, weight lifting and eating,” he said. “Literally my whole life in Greco has been him. He has definitely pushed me to where I am today. Without him I don’t know if I would be in the spot I am.”
While he is not the first wrestler to follow such a path, Alston is the first Greco-Roman wrestler in the nation to do so at his age, 16. In addition to prestigious tournaments such as the Dave Schultz Memorial International and Bill Farrell International Open, Alston Nutter will make a return trip to Sweden later this year. He will wrestle in Austria early next year. A journey to Panama for the Eduardo Campbell Senior International Cup is planned as well. The World Team Trials will be held in Las Vegas next April.
Alston looks forward to the opportunity to see how he can improve as a Greco-Roman wrestler while training in that discipline full-time.
“I have never been able to do that before,” he said. “So I think it is a really good experience to see where my Greco can go. And a lifestyle change too, I think that is pretty cool. They say a lot of times, ‘Change is good.’ I hope that is true.”
How important is this unprecedented move?
“Greco-Roman is the most competitive style of wrestling worldwide with the most nations competing,” Lindland said. “The competitors spend years training in Greco and it is not a style that only Americans compete. When athletes realize there is a bigger world outside of the American only Folkstyle of wrestling they are far behind their international competitors.” Alston agreed. “It can definitely make me reach my goals,” Nutter said.
“Another big thing is it is leading a youth movement for Greco in the U.S., trying to get a lot of kids to go straight Greco – there is that Folkstyle realm now. I think it is a really good move for me and I think this is the path I will follow to reach my goals.”
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