By JOSH FRYE
Escambia County High School senior wrestler Calvin Nichols made history earlier this year when he became the first school athlete ever to gain an undefeated individual wrestling record at ECHS. The 18-year-old, 6’8”, gentle giant went 6-0 during the Blue Devils first ever wrestling season.
“Calvin is quiet and gentle,” ECHS wrestling head coach Joel Gonzalez said. “He is a very humble guy, but that said, Calvin is also one of the hardest workers you will ever meet.”
As a testament to just how hard working the senior wrestler is, Nichols was able to drop over 100 pounds in just five months to make the required weight for wrestling. According to Gonzalez, Nichols made the drop by running, working out and dieting on a constant basis.
For Nichols, the decision to bring wrestling to ECHS this year was a godsend.
“It was new to the school and I liked it,” Nichols said. “I figured I may be good at it. As a kid, my siblings, friends and I used to wrestle around in the yard. We still do. Coach helped push me to lose the weight and work and I ended up loving the sport.”
Nichols, also an offensive lineman for the Blue Devils football team, started training for the team during the summer months. According to Gonzalez, at first there were around 25 students who came out for the team, but in the end, only three seventh graders and two seniors remained.
Nichols attributed the contact and sportsmanship as two of the key things that drew him into the sport. With a football background, Gonzalez and Nichols used that experience to their advantage and implemented much of his football training into his wrestling training program. Nichols won his first ever match at W.S. Neal High School against another wrestler who was similar in height. Gonzalez added that the match went into overtime, but Nichols pushed through and ended it quickly.
“That first win was awesome,” Nichols said. “I just remember how happy I was after winning that match. I remember I was shaking.”
After that first match, Nichols went on to win five more before the season came to a close as the team was unsanctioned this year and as such was not granted an opportunity to advance to state.
For Nichols, Gonzalez is more than a coach, but also a friend, mentor and father figure. The senior wrestler explained that Gonzalez offers help when needed on and off the mat.
“I have never really had many father figures,” Nichols said. “It means a lot to me to know that I have a role model and coach who is there for anything I need help with.”
According to the head wrestling coach, he looks at his team as family. Anything the team members need, day or night, he is willing to go the extra mile to make sure they are taken care of.
Gonzalez added that Nichols is a trailblazer for future wrestlers at Escambia County High. He explained that the towering senior is always humble and has never let anything go to his head.
“Calvin has established himself as a role model,” Gonzalez said. “He has blazed a path for others to follow. You could not ask for a better wrestler or person.”
For Nichols, when asked, he just smiled and said, “I am happy.”
Upon graduation this year, Nichols is uncertain where his future may lie. He is currently planning to pursue a football scholarship and stressed that he would love to continue wrestling. He also said he would maybe one day like to coach others in the sport and continue to pass on the traits to others that Coach Gonzalez has taught him.
In the end, Nichols expressed his gratitude for the program being made available to him and other student athletes at ECHS.