NEWBERRY — Nolan Whitely came to Newberry College for a chance to wrestle his senior year, and not only did he get that chance, but he also came out as an All American and took seventh in the National Tournament.
The 23-year-old Whitely came to Newberry from Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia. During his time there he qualified his first two years, and going into his junior year he was ranked in the country. However, that changed when he was called into his coach’s office 10 days before the regional tournament.
“Coach called me into his office and told me he is putting someone else in my weight class at 133, and I can wrestle at any other weight, except mine,” Whitely said.
Whitely went up to the 141 weight class by winning the wrestle off, but he said he was “kinda small” and he didn’t qualify for the national tournament that year. So when it came to his senior year, he no longer wanted to be there, he didn’t want the same scenario to play out again.
“What I like about the sport, if you lose its on you, but the fact I was told you’re done, this is his spot, I was like that’s not right, if I had lost I could have lived with that,” Whitely said.
So through connections made when he was in high school, Whitely connected with Newberry College head coach, Cy Wainwright. Which Whitely said got the ball rolling.
“I recruited Nolan at my previous head coaching job. Building that relationship with him in the recruiting process we became close. That’s the unique thing about recruiting. You can’t help but get invested with the people and families you meet in the process,” Wainwright said. “Nolan was a great addition. Having his wrestling pedigree and personality were welcoming. He knew what he wanted out of Newberry and is determined to get everything out of his time here.”
Whitely agreed that he had a good season, he said he wrestled a lot, in Division One Tournaments and in different competitions, including schools he wrestled previously.
“It was a good adjustment, I give a lot of credit to Coach Cy and R.C. (assistant coach), they got me prepared all season long and had me peaking at the right time,” Whitely said.
During Nationals, Whitelywas suppose to wrestle the individual that took his spot at Wheeling Jesuit, but that wrestler lost and the match never happened.
“I wanted to, me and him go back and forth, I wouldn’t say I would have won, but I liked my chance,” Whitely said.
During his time as a wrestler at Newberry College, Whitely said his best memory — and victory — came from his All American win.
“This kid I wrestled before, during my junior year, I won then. But this was a tight match (this year), I was losing 1-0 with about a minute left, never got any good shots, ended up getting into a weird position and was able to capitalize and score,” he said. “Funny how I won, I’m horrible on top, I don’t really ride wrestlers well, and I had to ride him for 53 seconds, because I was winning 2-1 at the point. I looked at the clock and go, ‘oh boy’ this is not good, but I ended up doing it. I looked in the corner and they (coaches) told me ‘you gotta man up and get it done, you don’t wanna go over time, this is it this is what you’ve been dong the last 18 years of your life.’”
He added that those words gave him shivers in the match and he was able to do what he needed to do to win.
“After that, my best memory is giving R.C. and Cy a hug after the math, best feeling. Many years of sacrifices, and falling short at the National Tournament, finally be able to get it down, something very special to me, probably the best memory here,” Whitely said.
Now that the season is over, Whitely is looking on to graduation in May, and for anyone who has transferred their senior year knows, that is no easy task.
“It was difficult with a lot of credits, I took three summer classes this summer and took 18 credits both semesters I’m here. Wasn’t an easy senior year like I would have had at my previous school. But, I was just big on when I’m done with the sport of wrestling, that I look back and say ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda.’ I’d rather take a risk, say I don’t graduate, I’m a class short, it’ll work out, I didn’t want to stay at a school that wasn’t a good environment and I wasn’t really happy with. I took the leap, and I came out here and I’m graduating in May.”
Part of the transition from one school to the other Whitely liked, were the coaches.
“Having coaches that believe in you, are there for you and support you. They were exactly what I needed, in the corner during matches, helping me out with school and getting me help,” he said.
Wainwright added that coaching Whitely was a blessing.
“He was always calm and composed. His mat savvy mentality with his wrestling background made it easier,” he said. “I expect him to be successful In whatever he does. He is resilient, smart and will find away to give back to the sport that has meant so much to him.”
When Whitely graduates in May with his degree in business administration, he will go home to Cleveland, Ohio, where he is part owner of Ohio Mobile Gaming.
“I have been working there for the last seven years, and kinda started this entertainment company from the ground up. We have everything from game trucks, inflatables, to even photo booths and much more,” he said.
Whitely is a 2014 graduate from Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. During his time there he was a two time state placer, fourth and third his junior and senior year, respectively.
“That’s how I first got in contact with Cy, throughout high school when he was at Coker. It’s crazy how stuff like that worked out,” Whitely said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.