State Champion wrestler Nolan Wheeler signs with Newberry College

  • Nolan Wheeler celebrates signing with Newberry College at the LCHS auditorium. Pictured (back row, L to R): LCHS head wrestling coach Sean Hage, LCHS assistant wrestling coach Ed Wright, former LCHS assistant wrestling coach Kris Martin, former LCHS head wrestling coach Brian Matthews, former LCHS assistant coach Sean Mullins and former LCHS assistant wrestling coach Will Mayfield. (Front row): Wheeler’s mother Heather Wheeler, Wheeler and Wheeler’s bonus mom Rhonda Bass.
    Nolan Wheeler celebrates signing with Newberry College at the LCHS auditorium. Pictured (back row, L to R): LCHS head wrestling coach Sean Hage, LCHS assistant wrestling coach Ed Wright, former LCHS assistant wrestling coach Kris Martin, former LCHS head wrestling coach Brian Matthews, former LCHS assistant coach Sean Mullins and former LCHS assistant wrestling coach Will Mayfield. (Front row): Wheeler’s mother Heather Wheeler, Wheeler and Wheeler’s bonus mom Rhonda Bass.
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When LCHS wrestler Nolan Wheeler returned from the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Championship he did so as only the second Lumpkin County wrestler to ever win three State Championship titles, securing the senior’s spot as a Lumpkin legend.
Now, with his high school career officially over, Wheeler will take all the strength, power and skills that he displayed on the mat in his four years with the LCHS wrestling team and his 13 years of overall wrestling experience to the collegiate level after he signed with Newberry College at a recent signing ceremony held at the LCHS auditorium.
“For Nolan being such a nice guy, he certainly is mean and nasty when he’s on the mat,” said former LCHS head wrestling coach Brian Matthews. “That’s one of the things that I will remember most about Nolan. Nolan’s hard work is the biggest part of his success. He didn’t just do what the coaches asked during the wrestling season, he worked hard in the offseason as well. He’s bled, cried and experienced everything that wrestling brings to an athlete. He’s experienced it all. And, now, he is only the second three-timer for Lumpkin wrestling. We are proud of Nolan and wish him the best in his future with Newberry.”
Wheeler first became interested in wrestling at an early age after hearing stories about his father’s wrestling days.
“When I was little, my dad told me how he used to wrestle,” Wheeler said. “And, I always wanted to try it because it sounded like fun. Then, when I started wrestling, I realized the beauty of the sport. It’s so perfect. I mean, just doing the moves you have to utilize finesse. Then I stuck with it because I just wanted to better myself in the sport.”
Better himself he did, as Wheeler went from being a State placer his freshman season to winning State Championship titles in his final three seasons with the Indians. It is an accomplishment that solidified Wheeler’s spot in LCHS history and satisfied a childhood dream.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to be a State Champion,” Wheeler said. “But, I didn’t know if I’d ever reach that level. Then, my freshman season, I actually made it to State and I was like, ‘wow, this is a lot bigger than I thought it could be.’ I placed sixth that year and came back the next year and won it. It was the greatest feeling I have ever had. And, then I went and won it again the next year and then the next. It was just amazing because that is all I ever wanted.”
Through his wrestling career Wheeler went through all the emotions that a wrestler can experience, from heartbreak to unbounded joy. Through those experiences, Wheeler believes that wrestling has taught him lessons on how to tackle anxiety and obstacles on and off the mat.
“It [wrestling] can apply to anything,” Wheeler said. “If you’re having a hard time in school and you’re anxious, it’s just like the feeling before a match. It builds up, but when it comes you think that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be. It shows you how to deal with that anxiety and teaches you to take everything one thing at a time, one match at a time.”
Wheeler admits that former Lumpkin wrestlers inspired him to work hard and give his best every time he stepped onto the mat to wrestle while on the Indians’ team.
“I always looked up to the high school wrestlers whenever I was up-and-coming,” Wheeler said. “They had already started to master what they were doing. People like Tristan Duckworth, Bradley Graff or any of those guys, just watching them wrestle was awesome.”
With interest from several different colleges and universities, Wheeler decided to commit to Newberry College in South Carolina. It was an easy decision for the Lumpkin senior.
“I went on a couple visits,” Wheeler said. “The first place, I was impressed because it was my first college visit ever. Then I went to Newberry and it just felt like home. It’s a lot like downtown Gainesville, but not nearly as big. It’s just really pretty and homey and all the coaches were really nice people.”
Wheeler, who wants to one day become a Registered Nurse, will focusing on that career path while wrestling at and attending Newberry College.
Wheeler offered some advice to younger generations of wrestlers, something that he said he will never forget.
“Pterodactyls don’t shoot,” Wheeler said when asked the one thing he would always remember about his high school wrestling career. “It was some advice I got at a camp. The idea is to keep your elbows in. Otherwise, it’ll be you that gets thrown.”
While Wheeler prepares to take his talents to the next level, the Lumpkin senior hopes that his character inspires others to remember him fondly.
“I hope everyone thought that I was someone that they could talk to and that I was a good friend to everyone I could,” Wheeler said.
For anyone who witnessed the sheer brilliance of Wheeler’s high school wrestling career or got to talk with him during his time at LCHS; one thing is for sure and that is that if Wheeler continues to put in the same kind of effort and work ethic at Newberry College that he did while an Indian, then the sky is the limit for this young man.