Nick Willham challenges would-be tacklers on football fields in the fall and runs middle distance each track season.
It’s the bridge connecting the sports that excites the Greenwood junior the most, though there are adjustments to be made in terms of conditioning.
“The transition from football to wrestling is rough,” said Willham, who rushed for 1,080 yards and 14 touchdowns in helping lead the Woodmen to a Class 4A semistate appearance. “In football, you’re working as a team rather than as an individual.
“The toughest part is getting your cardio, but playing football does help you stay aggressive. You’re still in a contact sport.”
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Despite his wrestling season getting off to a late start with the football team competing into mid-November, Willham had won all 15 of his matches at 182 pounds entering the Mooresville Holiday Classic on Dec. 27 and 28. This includes winning the division at the Johnson County tournament at Indian Creek.
Moved to 170 at Mooresville, he won four of five matches, losing to Homestead’s Brady Wyro in the title match. The victory improved Wyro to 24-0 this season and put Willham’s overall mark at 19-1.
“We figured it would be best to keep me at 182 early in the season to keep my strength up, but I feel better at 170,” Willham said. “I was smaller than some of the 182 kids.”
Competing at 182 was a five-class advancement in weight from Willham’s freshman season, when he finished 16-27 at 138. He competed as a 152-pounder as a sophomore, making it to the Evansville Reitz Semistate.
Regardless of the weight class, Willham’s dependability and passion to be better are things Woodmen coach Jay Yates never has to be worried about.
“With Nick, he’s a three-sport athlete, but in the offseason he always made it to wrestling tournaments, even when he was in track,” Yates said. “He just has that drive. His work ethic is top-notch.
“It’s typically the conditioning that goes with it that’s the hardest. To wrestle a six-minute match, it usually takes a few weeks to get used to that. The constant movement during a match. At county, he really showed he was back.”
A look at Nick Willham’s wrestling career entering today’s dual match at home against Bishop Chatard: