Lake Norman & Mooresville

Titan wrestler pins his way through opponents

To say that Nick Watson is aggressive could be an understatement.

As soon as the senior Hopewell wrestler hits the mat, he goes for the kill, using his agility, a rare find at upper weight classes, to get the best of his opponents.

"Wrestling is about who wants it more," said Watson. "You have to take every opportunity that's given."

So far that approach has paid off, as Watson has dominated, pinning 16 of his first 25 opponents.

"I think it's because of my experience," he said. "I'm just good at my positions and if the guy makes a mistake, if he puts his head down or something like that, I just punish him."

Coach Frank Smithwick said he can count on Watson to give his team the 16 points for the pin night in and night out.

Smithwick attributes his 215-pounder's success to his time in lower weight classes.

"He doesn't wrestle like a typical upper weight," said Smithwick.

Watson started his Titan wrestling career at 171 pounds, so he uses the skills he learned at that division, where the match isn't decided as much by strength, to get the upper hand.

"You have to be able to move fast down there, so when I went up weight classes I stuck with the speed," said Watson.

Although he's only lost one match this season and is the third-ranked 215-pounder in the state by retrorankings.com, Watson still isn't satisfied with how he's wrestling.

"I could be doing better," he said. "I need to get in better shape."

To do that, Watson is even considering going easy on his pins.

"Maybe I'll make my matches last a little longer, so I can get a better workout when I wrestle," he said.

Watson hopes that will help him reach his peak, where he said he needs to be to reach his goal of winning a state title.

"This is my last chance. It's not about going to states any more, it's about going far," he said. "I have to win it; I have no time to play around."

To do that, Watson is also shifting down to the 189-pound class, where he feels he has a better chance of taking it all.

Watson's breakthrough season came his sophomore season, when he reached states, where he went 2-2. Although he wasn't able to qualify for regionals last year due to a suspension following a match with North Mecklenburg's Latham York, he also had a strong season last year.

Smithwick said he's noticed Watson's attitude change.

"He wants it more," said Smithwick. "He's just matured a lot during the past three years."

Although Watson's working hard to reach his goals, he also wants his team to do well.

The Titans are young and have gotten off to a 6-11 start to the season. That's mostly due to several holes in their lineup, including at 130, 135 and 189-pounds, forcing them to forfeit matches at those weights.

But despite their record, individually, the team has had some strong showings. In addition to Watson's 24-1 record, 171-pounder Matt Cancellieri (19-5), 112-pounder Wesley Patrick (20-5) and 103-pounder Austin Randall (19-2) have also performed well this season.

Watson hopes Hopewell is able to finish with at least a .500 record.

He could play a big role in how much success the team has.

Smithwick said Watson, who's a captain on the team, not only contributes point at matches, but also comes up big by serving as almost an extra coach for the Titans.

"He's a student of the sport and he can probably teach the other kids about as much as I can," said Smithwick.

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