Nick Nevills is not overly particular about what move he will use to pin his next opponent. He just figures that whether it's an outside single leg shot, an ankle pick set up by collar ties, an underhook throw or a combination of the mix, it very well may lead to a pin.
The senior-to-be heavyweight from Clovis High (Calif.) pinned his college destination last Tuesday, too, selecting Penn State over a host of programs. The decision ultimately came down to PSU and Ohio State. FLO Wrestling first reported the news.
A two-time California champion, Nevills is gunning for the state falls record held by Nittany Lion Wrestling Club member and Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner. A two-time state champ himself, Varner racked up 132 career pins at Bakersfield High. Heading into his senior season, Nevills sits at the century mark, and after securing 44 falls during his junior season, the record is certainly within reach.
So, too, is another team title. A longtime California powerhouse, Clovis has won three consecutive state crowns. For Nevillis, that mission comes first, before his return trip to University Park. He visited Penn State earlier this year to get a feel for the program and campus.
He is joined in Penn State's Class of 2014 by Solanco (Pa.) High heavyweight Thomas Haines (a three time PIAA state champion) and Kennard-Dale High (York, Pa.) top-ranked grappler Chance Marsteller (160 pounds).
"It just felt like the place, and it was a gut feeling," Nevills explained. "It wasn't that I felt like Ohio State was a bad place -- I really liked it. But Penn State was the place for me, and where I wanted to go.
"I love watching Penn State wrestle, and I saw them at NCAAs last year. When I was walking around campus, I got a really good feel. It's a lot different than home, and that is appealing. Talking with the coaches, I feel like it's a place I can go, and have success as an individual and a team. It's a great atmosphere and I'm really excited."
Besides the campus and wrestling program, Nevills also learned on his visit that a move he has long tried to master wasn't quite right. Fortunately, the man he was trying to emulate was on hand to correct him.
The heavyweight who says he grew into his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame noted he has watched "hours and hours" of Penn State coach Cael Sanderson wrestling, including videos of his famed single collar tie ankle pick. Though he felt he was doing it properly, he learned after chatting with Sanderson that he was not.
It was one of many learning moments during his visit, which also set aside time for conversations with both Sanderson and assistant head coach Casey Cunningham. Both possess a personality and vibe that the heavyweight believes will help lead him to success.
"When I was little, I wrestled at 99 pounds in fourth grade, 119 in fifth grade, and then 135, 140 in sixth grade. I wrestled like a little guy," Nevills said. "I like attacking with sweep singles, ankle picks and underhooks. I have to get better at a lot of stuff, and hand fighting, for the next level, and that's something I'm really excited to work on."
Nevillis also plays high school football. His goal there is to help the team win a conference title, something it has not done in 10 years.
He'll then head back to the mats, where his pinning ways are likely to continue. Much like Penn State, the grappler says his coaches -- led by Steven Tirapelle, assistant and 2001 NCAA national champion Adam Tirapelle, and assistant Ben Holscher -- preach scoring points and finishing a match early whenever possible.
It wasn't always his strength, though. The top position used to be his most efficient workplace, but he's since gained an ability to wrestle consistently well from all three positions. As for pinning, the key there, he says, is to get a takedown and never let his opponent build momentum.
"I get a takedown and start trying to turn the guy. I like to use the arm bar -- that's where a lot of those falls came from early on," Nevills explained. "I like pinning people. I'm not big on teching guys. Our philosophy is to get the pin, and to take them down, grind them into the mat, and work for a turn."
With his recruitment wrapped up, it's full steam ahead for a final year of high school athletics for Nevills. He admits it could have ended sooner, though.
Sticking to the promise he made himself to not offer a verbal pledge on any visit, Nevills took a visit to Columbus to make sure Penn State was where he wanted to go when his high school years are over. After discussion and prayer with his family, he was sure that it was.
"I really enjoyed going out there and seeing the coaches, campus and environment that Penn State is," Nevills said. "It's basically in a hilly forest -- there are just trees everywhere. It was nice seeing all the green and the nature.
"[The coaches] help individuals achieve their goals, and when individuals do that, team championships usually follow. I'm excited that I know I'm going to a place with great coaches and individuals, as well as wrestlers."