Boogaard: Clovis star wrestler Nick Nevills not ready to give up football

The Fresno BeeAugust 5, 2013 

Nick Nevills was living the teen summer life, and that didn't have to change, especially not for a Clovis High senior set for a wrestling career at three-year reigning NCAA champion Penn State.

"I was literally going to bed at 2:30 in the morning, rolling out of bed at 12:30 (p.m.) and playing computer games," he says. "I was getting to be lazy."

He could have done that for a couple more weeks before school starts, yet Monday he awoke at 6 a.m., scarfed a couple pieces of bread with honey, grabbed his cleats and began a four-month grind as a defensive lineman/tight end with a three-hour workout on the Cougars' field as football practices began in the Central Section.

"I love playing in Lamonica Stadium. I love those Friday nights. I just love the feeling," he says. "I really just love playing football, and I've never considered the idea of not playing it in high school."

If ever he had an excuse not to it would be now, a month after committing to wrestle at Penn State on a near-full scholarship worth nearly $40,000 a year.

Instead, the two-time state heavyweight champion will extend two legacies — one of football/wrestling combination stars at Clovis; the other specifically of section heavyweight state champions who also excelled in football.

In addition to Nevills, they have featured Hanford's Jewerl Thomas, a state gold medalist in 1975, Clovis West's Trent Barnes (1985, '86) and Lemoore's Lorenzo Neal ('89).

Clovis has long flourished by sharing athletes in football and wrestling, never better than the past three years.

The Cougars have won three consecutive state team titles in wrestling, with medalists Adrian Salas (first), Dakota Gordan (second), Ryan Davies (fourth) and Taylor Ferguson (sixth) having also figured prominently in the turnaround of the football program. Clovis has gone 27-9 with two Tri-River Athletic Conference titles during that span.

Reaching back further, Tyler Clutts was a quarterback/defensive lineman who led Clovis to a section title in 2002 before winning a state gold at 215 pounds four months later.

Nevills, neighbors with Clutts at the time, was encouraged by him to wrestle. And, today, out of respect, Nevills wears the same jersey number 11 that Clutts did as a Cougar.

Paramount to Clovis' success has been the relationship among their coaches — lately, Rich Hammond in football and the father-son combination of Steve and Adam Tirapelle in wrestling.

"We do not tug on the athletes and tell them to choose," Hammond says.

Nevills, at 6-feet-31/2 and 255 pounds, also had the choice for college.

One of the nation's top wrestling recruits in any weight class, he denied the likes of Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Stanford, where he could have joined his brother, Zach Nevills.

In the year of the defensive lineman in Fresno County, Nevills isn't ranked among the state's best at the position by Cal-Hi Sports, which has Central's Tashon Smallwood and Sharif Williams at Nos. 5 and 14, and Clovis North's Daniel Jacob at No. 7.

But there's little question Nevills would be in the mix had he committed his future to football and competed in offseason camps and combines, which weigh on rankings greatly.

Bottom line: Football coaches from Alabama, USC and Cal have met Nevills while extending their hands just in case.

"Nick would have got scholarship offers had he pursued football," Hammond says. "He's a very strong young man who's lightning quick and able to use his hands and feet together in a manner that's naturally far beyond normal. College coaches are real impressed with his technique; it's just like they teach it."

Central popular in state football rankings

In addition to Smallwood and Williams, Central has three other players state-ranked at their positions by Cal-Hi Sports.

They include No. 2 wide receiver Michiah Quick, whom Cal-Hi reports has narrowed his top schools to two-year reigning national champion Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC.

Grizzlies also ranked are No. 6 running back Nick Wilson and No. 11 defensive back Devon Brewer.

Other section players ranked by Cal-Hi:

Quarterback: No. 13 Marcus McMaryion, Dinuba.

Running back: No. 11 Kevin Nutt, Edison; No. 12 Blake Wright, Edison.

Linebacker: No. 20 Grant Bouma, Bakersfield Christian.

Defensive back: No. 15 Adam Soesman, Buchanan.

Also …

-- Central will open the section schedule Aug. 24 at Colorado's defending 5A state champion Valor Christian of Highlands Ranch. The 7 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN2. Most section teams will open Aug. 30, including a D-I power matchup of Clovis and Edison at Sunnyside at 7:30 p.m.

-- Julian Jenkins, a former Stanford and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman, will be the guest speaker at Parlier High's student-athlete orientation at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

 

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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