One day after he won the Nebraska Class B state wrestling championship at heavyweight on Feb. 17, Huskers football commit Garrett Nelson was on his way to warmer weather. It was perfect timing, too. Nebraska was slated for another round of winter weather, but Nelson and his family were Florida-bound.
Getting to the Sunshine State was a bit of an adventure, though. The Scottsbluff, Neb., native and his family made the nearly seven-hour drive home from Omaha that Sunday morning. After a few hours to recoup, the Nelsons were in the car again headed for Denver. One redeye flight later, the family arrived in Florida around 6 a.m. ET on Monday.
“It feels good,” Nelson told Land of 10. “Took a lot of time to get here, but definitely worth it.”
In some ways, Nelson’s state championship win for Scottsbluff High School was the same. He’d been thinking about winning a state title for years, and accomplishing that goal was filled with satisfaction and excitement. So much so, Nelson quickly found his dad for a big hug after the win.
Thank you for being my dad. pic.twitter.com/kyHSEQGhEP
— Garrett Nelson (@gnelson763) February 23, 2018
It was a special moment between father and son, even if what was said was ultimately lost in the excitement.
“I think I said, ‘We did it,’ ” Nelson said. “But I can’t really remember.”
Garrett’s father, Chris, wrestled for Nebraska. He was an All-American twice, Big Eight wrestling champion and the Outstanding Wrestler of the Big Eight tournament in 1992. Garrett grew up wanting to be like his dad, and set his sights on becoming a Division I athlete.
Garrett figured he’d be a wrestler in college, though. He’d grown up around his dad’s Nebraska teammates, and heard plenty of stories. There were also annual fishing trips to Canada where he had an opportunity to see what being a Division I athlete meant to Chris and his friends.
“Obviously, being around them, I knew how they turned out,” Garrett said. “I really wanted to be that, so I started pursuing that.”
Chris and his wife Holli never wanted to push any of their children to wrestle. It was important that their kids follow their own paths, whether that was wrestling, football or something else. For Garrett, he didn’t yet know what sport he wanted to pursue. He just knew where he wanted to end up.
Garrett was in eighth grade when he made a trip to Lincoln with Chris for a Nebraska football game. The two took in a wrestling meet the Friday night before, which allowed Garrett the opportunity to learn more about his dad’s time at Nebraska. Chris’ name and photos hung on the walls, and that’s when the light bulb went off.
“At that time, he didn’t know whether it’d be football or wrestling. It just hit him at that moment, ‘Hey I want to be a Division I athlete,'” Chris said. “We went to work and when he made the commitment, I made the commitment back to getting him training sessions at our local YMCA.”
Garrett made the most of that commitment. He put time into perfecting his craft on both the football field and the wrestling mat. By the time he was a sophomore in high school, Garrett was visiting football camps and doing his best to make a name for himself.
The years of training paid off for Garrett in June. While attending a Nebraska Friday Night Lights camp in Lincoln, former coach Mike Riley and former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco extended an offer.
“It turned out well,” Garrett said. “I got an offer from Nebraska that summer, accepted it a week later, and really never ever turned back.”
— Garrett Nelson (@gnelson763) July 6, 2017
Since accepting his Nebraska offer, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound outside linebacker has seen plenty of change for the Huskers. Those that offered him are no longer with the program, and coach Scott Frost and his staff are now at the helm. The change could have been a concern for Garrett, but he never worried about his place in the 2019 recruiting class.
A visit from Nebraska’s new inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud solidified that thinking. On a drive back from Colorado, Ruud stopped in Scottsbluff to meet with Garrett. The two ended up talking for 40 minutes that day.
“He’s a really great guy, and I can’t wait to be coached by him,” Garrett said. “We text almost daily. It’s just the vibe from him, I just feel comfortable.”
Garrett has yet to meet Frost, but the day will come soon. He considered a trip to Lincoln while in Omaha for the state wrestling tournament, but he opted to focus on the reason he was in town. For Chris, that decision speaks volumes about the kind of person his son is.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he wanted to focus on state, because that’s what he was there to do,” Chris said. “He wanted to win a state championship. No question, he’ll be the same way as a football player, as he prepares for a game each week.”
Garrett and his family plan to be in Lincoln for Nebraska’s spring game on April 21. Garrett will have a chance to meet with Frost then, and Chris will have a chance to see his son at his alma mater once again.
There will also be plenty of decisions ahead. While Garrett doesn’t currently have plans to graduate early, it’s a discussion he’ll continue to have with his parents. He also has a senior football season ahead, and possibly another state wrestling championship to win. The work is far from over for Garrett.
All that can wait for another day, though. For now, Garrett is a state champion wrestler who is enjoying a little time away with his family.
And while Garrett doesn’t necessarily remember those few moments following his state title win, his dad does.
“I think it was both of us knowing how much time we put into each other, into making his dream and goals come true,” Chris said. “Obviously, I was blessed as a father to have the knowledge about wrestling where I could actually help him achieve the goals that he wanted to get to. The embracement was just a celebration for both of us.
“It was just an accumulation of all those emotions and workouts that led up to him reaching his goal.”
— Chris Nelson (@chrisenelly) February 18, 2018
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