Michael Traum

In the world of wrestling, Justin Nixon is a big, tough bruiser.

The 6-2, 175-pounder is in prime shape, with muscles on top of muscles. He is as determined and dedicated an athlete as there is in South Lake Tahoe, with a matured mind to boot. It’s a physique he flexed in finishing second in two disciplines in the National Wrestling Championships on July 1-4 in Waterloo, Iowa.

By the way, Nixon is only 14 years old.

“You just have to keep your head up and keep pushing for what you want,” said Nixon, a member of the South Tahoe Wrestling Club and a soon-to-be high school freshman. “If you stay out of trouble and keep working hard, you can get what you want out of sports and life.”

Add to that a whole lot of practice – something that both Nixon and Wrestling Club coach Dave Borges attribute to his phenomenal showing at the national level.

“There are several wrestlers in this area who are capable of going to the national level. But Justin took on the challenge, went toe-to-toe with tough competition and realized his dream,” Borges said.

“There were times I was sick of wrestling. I’ve been doing it non-stop since the end of October,” Nixon added. “I just got up and did it. It’s just determination.”

Nixon’s drive to the nationals began with an impressive run. He won the Nevada state titles in Greco-Roman and freestyle without giving up a point. He then earned the regional titles in both disciplines in Butte, Mont., scoring 110 points while allowing just four in 28 matches.

“There were some farm-bred boys. They were big and stocky, but I was just as big as them,” Nixon said.

Once at nationals, the number of competitors dwindled, but the caliber of competition excelled. Nixon opened in the Greco format with three wins – two pins and a technical fall. In the final, he faced the Minnesota state/Mideast regional champ. After taking a 7-3 lead in a style that emphasizes upper-body movement and penalizes for leg grappling, Nixon failed to execute a match-clinching throw. His competitor landed on Nixon’s shoulder, dislocating it. While he elected to continue, his intelligent opponent went to work on his injured shoulder and quickly scored a pin.

“I threw him up and over but didn’t complete it. The doctor wanted me to stop, but I kept going. He got me on all fours and started wrenching on my shoulder. I got stuck,” Nixon said.

But Nixon battled back in the freestyle event, where full-body work is emphasized. After a pair of byes and technical fall with two five-point throws over the New York state/Eastern regional champ, Nixon again faced the Minnesota champion in the finals. The result was the same.

“He was still wrenching on my shoulder because he knew it was bothering me. And he came out with more offense than in Greco. He was technical and surprised me. I was fighting for my life in that match and lost with 10 seconds to go in the first round,” said Nixon, who was the 165-pound Nevada champ last year but couldn’t go on to regionals and nationals because of injury. “I’m somewhat disappointed. I knew I gave it my all in the freestyle. But I’m positive I could’ve won in Greco if my shoulder didn’t give out. I’ve been pushing to get there since I can remember. I want to get back there again.”

Still, Nixon and Borges are pleased with the young wrestler’s performance and potential for influencing other local athletes.

“Justin has completed the difficult task of making footprints for others to follow and opened the door for many future South Tahoe wrestlers who are striving to reach their potential,” Borges said. “If you realize some of the wrestlers at this year’s nationals will eventually represent the USA in future Olympics, Justin certainly placed himself with the elite class of wrestlers.”

Added Nixon, “I got a lot of support from Team Nevada, the South Tahoe Wrestling Club and the community. We have to put every effort into making kids better.”

In other regional action, South Tahoe Wrestling Club’s Cavin Ross earned sixth place and Garrett Gibb won a match in Greco style.

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