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Noah Nelson looks to continue improvement as league duals begin

Noah Nelson (right), seen here grappling with teammate Derek Sandoval at practice last month, is having his best season ever, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Pat Lovell Classic in the 138-pound division. File photo.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when lockdowns started to become ubiquitous, Noah Nelson dialed himself in mentally and went to work. Instead of resting on his laurels during the shutdown period, Nelson decided to work harder than ever.

“Over quarantine I had the mindset I was going to outwork everyone,” the San Benito High senior said. “That is what really has set me apart from the last few years with my wrestling (results). I took it as an opportunity to get my fundamentals down and capitalize on what I’ve done the last few years.”

The results speak for themselves. In his final year of prep competition, Nelson is having his best season yet, compiling a second-place finish at the Pat Lovell Holiday Classic at Aptos High in late December. Nelson won his first four matches before losing in the 138-pound championship match. 

It was by far his best showing at the Pat Lovell Classic, and the result is part of the reason why Nelson entered the week as the Central Coast Section’s sixth-ranked wrestler in his weight class.  

“It was a big improvement since freshman year when I went 0-2 there,” he said. “I felt really accomplished by going second this year.” 

San Benito opens Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division competition with a dual at Gilroy High on Wednesday. Nelson’s first match at Aptos was the highlight of his season thus far. Competing against Sean Najar of Evergreen Valley, Nelson pulled out a 9-7 decision victory and overcame some adversity in the process. 

“My ankle got twisted and I had to wrap it mid-match,” Nelson said. “I also hurt my shoulder so I had to wrestle with an injured ankle and a hurt shoulder for the rest of the tournament.” 

Nelson has been focusing on shooting and maintaining constant pressure on his opponent. If Nelson finds himself on the defensive early on, he knows things aren’t looking good. 

“I try to get them down quick in the first round and try to wear them down,” he said. 

Nelson knows he has to work on the finer, nuanced aspects of the sport like his positioning on top and bottom position. 

“That’s been the hard part for me to get down fundamentally,” he said. “I’m trying to get better at getting out (from certain situations).”

Thanks to Haybalers coach Steven Salcedo, Nelson and his teammates can watch video of their matches and evaluate their performances. The team usually has a video/film session each week where Salcedo will point out various highlights and lowlights for each wrestler. 

“Sometimes he’ll make fun of me (in a good natured way), but usually it’s just stuff I have to work on,” Nelson said. “The day after the Pat Lovell Tournament we went to the wrestling room, watched video and it was like mental reps on what we did. It’s great to see video because you don’t know what you’re really doing sometimes during the matches until you watch it back on video. Then we’ll go over some technique and movement and it teaches us what we need to work on.”

Nelson said he’s enjoyed being a part of this year’s team because of the deeper talent pool, especially when it comes to the younger up-and-comers like Art Parra and a couple of other freshmen and sophomores. 

“We have some young studs who could do well in the CCS Tournament,” said Nelson, who went 2-2 in advancing to the CCS quarterfinals in the 106-pound division two years ago. “You have to have that mentality and grit and when you see some of these freshmen it brings me back to when I was them and gives me great hope for the team now and in the future.”

Balers seniors Noah Nelson and Derek Sandoval spar at practice last month. Nelson is having his best season yet and chalks that up to working hard at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. File photo.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.