The latest addition to the relaunched Fresno State wrestling program comes from the most successful family ever to compete as California high schoolers.
AJ Nevills, a 2016 CIF State champion for Clovis High, announced via Twitter and confirmed to The Bee that he will sign with the Bulldogs in April and enroll at Fresno State in the fall.
Nevills, the third of four brothers who have combined for eight state titles and 14 medals overall during their high school careers, has spent the past year in State College, Pennsylvania, as a grayshirt at NCAA Division I champion Penn State.
Fresno State, which eliminated wrestling in 2006 for budgetary and Title IX reasons, returns to competition in 2017-18 under coach Troy Steiner and assistants Israel Silva and Jason Chamberlain.
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“I believe in the program and the coaches,” Nevills said. “They are going to turn it into something I would like to say I was a part of. And, they are going to train me to the best of my abilities.”
Nevills was regarded as the No. 47 overall senior recruit in the country coming out of high school by Flo Wrestling in 2016. He signed with Penn State, joining older brother Nick Nevills with the Nittany Lions, who have won six of the past seven NCAA Division I team titles.
As a grayshirt, AJ Nevills never enrolled at Penn State, but did train with the Nittany Lions Wrestling Club under coach Cael Sanderson. Nevills will enter Fresno State as a freshman with a redshirt year available.
I believe in the program and the coaches. They are going to turn it into something I would like to say I was a part of. And, they are going to train me to the best of my abilities.
Former Clovis High state wrestling champion AJ Nevills, who is leaving Penn State to help relaunch the Fresno State program next season.
“I can’t put into words the lessons and values the coaches at Penn State have taught me,” Nevills said.
Nevills competed at 220 pounds at Clovis as a senior, when he beat Poway’s Chris Bailey for the state title. He has since moved up in weight, where he would have had to compete against brother Nick, a sophomore who became a first-time All-American with a fifth-place finish at 285 pounds during the NCAA Division I Championships last weekend.
“I’d rather wrestle against him than have to wrestle him for a spot in the lineup,” AJ Nevills said. “That was a main reason (for leaving Penn State.) And I really do believe in the (Fresno State) coaches.”
8Combined number of CIF State Wrestling individual titles won by Clovis’ Nevills brothers: Zach, Nick, AJ and Seth
Nevills joins a roster featuring 11 wrestlers who rose from the Central Section, including former Clovis teammates in Josh Hokit, Isaiah Hokit, Brandon Martino and Khristian Olivas.
“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a factor,” Nevills said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them again. But I’m not going back to be on the Clovis High team. This is Fresno State. There’s a difference between high school and college, and we’re going to show everyone that.
“It will take us awhile, but by the time I leave, I believe we will have started something new and good there.”
AJ Nevills’ oldest brother, Zach, won one state title and four medals overall during his career at Clovis before moving on to Stanford. Nick Nevills was a three-time state champ and four-time medalist before signing with Penn State. Youngest brother Seth Nevills won his third CIF State title in March and will attempt to become only the third four-time champ in state history next season as a senior at Clovis.
Only the Tirapelle brothers (Adam, Alex and Troy) have combined for as many state gold medals (eight). The Tirapelles captured nine state medals overall.