Joe Nelson: Basketball's loss was wrestling's gain

Thank goodness for split seasons in modified sports.

Oxford sophomore Joe Nelson played basketball all the way through elementary school and into the seventh grade. Nelson, a talented athlete in every sport that uses a ball, compensated for his lack of size with natural instincts and talent. Once Nelson reached middle-school age, Oxford wrestling coach Craig Tefft, and the rest of the coaching staff, presented him with an opportunity.

“He was a very good athlete, and the way modified sports  basically works, wrestling season does not start until after basketball season,” Tefft said. “It is nice (the way the schedule is set up) because we get some kids to come out for wrestling who had nothing else to do. I had him in modified football, and I talked to him about wrestling and being able to compete against people his own size. He decided to come out for the sport after basketball, and he was just a natural with his ability and reactions. I think he really enjoyed the one-on-one competition.”

Too small for even the lightest weight classes on the junior varsity and varsity teams, Nelson toiled on the Oxford modified wrestling team for two years. Tefft remembers watching Nelson from his earliest days of practice, and how quickly his budding mat star picked up new techniques. “He definitely stood out,” Tefft said. “In certain situations, he was doing things that some of the varsity guys were not doing. It just came natural to him.”

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