You have got to be familiar with Alston Nutter (63 kg, NMU/OTS) by now. In 2016, Nutter, as much of a Greco lifer one can be at such a young age, said goodbye to his last two years of high school in Wisconsin and hello to Northern Michigan University’s Olympic Training Site program. He wanted to get on the fast track towards a World-level Greco-Roman career. It didn’t matter that Nutter wasn’t old enough to drive a car yet or the fact that his contemporaries were on the precipice of those supposed coming-of-age moments realized in whatever John Hughes flick from the 80’s. When a human has a dream in his or her heart, perceived conventional norms have a habit of taking a backseat.
After one full season in Marquette crammed with enough lessons learned to fill a book, Nutter kick-started his 2017-18 campaign by running through the competition at the Bear Cup in Denmark. He then followed that performance up with a fifth at Sweden’s Klippan Cup, a Senior-level tournament. Four months, or one third of a year, came and went before Nutter was back at it again with a silver at the Austria Open. From that point forward, his eyes remained fixed on the all-important opportunity that is now mere days away.
Nutter’s path to a spot on the 2018 Junior World Team began this past spring in Las Vegas. It was at the UWW Junior Nationals in April where the NMU athlete outscored his four opponents 33-0 with all four victories coming via technical superiority. There were other dominant performances in that event, but nothing really quite like what Nutter managed to put together. Although, that was only the first step. He still had to seal the deal.
A little over a month later he was able to do so. Because Nutter’s National title had earned him a bye to the Junior World Team Trials best-of-three finals — and because he went virtually untouched in Vegas, to begin with — the rest seemed like a formality. Nutter swept strong and gifted Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC) in two straight, grabbed a breather, and here we are. At the doorstep.
With a summer of intense training logged, Nutter seems self-assured and comfortable in his own skin. The goal for 2018 has not been accomplished yet. He’ll have his chance to rectify that beginning Monday morning in Trnava, Slovakia. But there is a certain calmness you detect when speaking with him, which is saying something given how fired up he often gets when discussing his pride in being a Team USA representative. “We’ve got to get back to trying to kill people,” he said Monday evening, as casual as a gas station attendant explaining directions to a tourist. That’s what Nutter sounds like at peace. Can you imagine what he’s going to be like when the whistle blows in Slovakia?
He is, if such a thing exists, a new-school throwback. Nutter is a reminder of the attitude many US Greco-Roman legends used to carry themselves with. He is interested in battering opponents into a completely dehabilitive state, however it has to happen and whatever that needs to look like. He doesn’t care where an opponent is from or what they’ve accomplished previously. Nutter lives for the struggle and if you tell him that a World medal just so happens to be on the line, then he’s even more engaged. That’s what is awaiting the 63-kilogram field overseas next week, and hopefully you’re familiar with the reason why.
Alston Nutter — 63 kg, NMU/OTS
5PM: What was your individual training plan immediately following your win in Indianapolis?
Alston Nutter: Well, after the Trials, I talked to Coach (Andy) Bisek and Coach Rob (Hermann) and told them that I was going to be training with Lucas Steldt. They gave me a plan to follow, plus Lucas and I had our own plan, too. First I took a mental break for a little bit just to recover from the on-top feeling or whatever, the high after winning Trials.
Then I got back in the room with Lucas and we broke down all of my mistakes from Austria, the Open, and the Trials. We broke all that down to figure out all of the mistakes and went over the adjustments I was having to make in order to compete at my top game against the rest of the world. We broke all that down, wrote up a plan for the summer, and worked on really small things to get ready for the Worlds heading into September. That’s what my summer looked like.
5PM: Was it important for you to take a breather after the Trials, like a good mental reset?
AN: Definitely for sure, because once you set your mind to a certain goal you take steps. But after it’s accomplished, you’re like, Oh fuck, what now? So it was nice to reset and figure out the next goal and the plan. It was good to put the Trials behind me after I had already won that and then focus on the big picture for 2018, which is winning a World gold medal. So yeah, it was good to get a breather, take a step back, and figure out the main goal.
5PM: You’ve been involved in this sport from a young age and possess a definitive understanding of the goals our country has from a developmental standpoint, and you have also done your share of traveling. When you’re at a camp like the one in Vegas last month, and it’s full of other World Team members from different age groups, do you notice for yourself the progress the US has been making the past few years?
AN: Oh, definitely. I’ll start with (US National head coach Matt) Lindland making a path for athletes aside from going the folkstyle route. I mean, that was a huge eye-opener for the country in getting the Greco program re-rolling. I have also seen athletes’ mindsets changing. Now, instead of just making World Teams, we’re focused on winning medals. And not only medals, the Teams are focused on winning trophies and winning that Team race. I think I’ve seen huge improvement in the mindset of where we want to be. We understand that we’ve kind of been beaten down the past few years, but now we’re seeing that isn’t the American way so we want to put ourselves back on the map and start killing people again.
5PM: A good amount of your World Teammates have international experience and you as much as anybody, with the exception of Kamal Bey, Taylor LaMont, and Cohlton Schultz. You’re familiar with what the sport looks like elsewhere. With that, you’ve spent the better portion of 2018 training to beat other Americans to make this Team. Now you’re training to beat guys from all over the planet. How do you use your previous foreign experience to your benefit at this stage?
Alston Nutter: I have to use it by taking the fight to them. I have to make every match a streetfight and wear them out until they can’t pick their arms up. Wrestling other Americans, it’s a lot more of a physical battle — but going over there it’s going to be a technical battle, which we’re behind on because we’ve been wrestling folkstyle our whole lives. So I have to take the fight to them and make it a physical battle, and then use my technique to just destroy them and win.
5PM: I know you love this sport and will compete against anyone at any time, but do you look forward to wrestling internationally more than you do domestically?
AN: Yeah, I really enjoy wrestling internationally. Because, you can win in America and it’s a big deal, but it is really cool to see where you’re at in the entire world. I think that’s one of the coolest parts about getting to go overseas. You get to put yourself up against the entire world and see for yourself how good you actually are. So I think that’s huge and super-cool about the sport.
5PM: Combining the two World Team camps you participated in with the stuff you and Steldt did ahead of time, has your level of confidence grown throughout the summer?
AN: Definitely, 100%. I’ve been working with Lucas on different mindsets and different ways to attack people. I’m definitely a lot more confident going into this tournament, for sure, and I think the way I’m going into it is going to be good.
5PM: You’re days away practically at this point. It’s the World Championships. Some guys blow this up in their minds and some guys treat it like another day at the office. How are you seeing this given that it’s your first Worlds?
Alston Nutter: I’m seeing this like it’s all part of the plan. This was the main goal. At the beginning of the season, I sat down with my coaches and said, I want to win a medal this year. So to me, this is all part of the plan. Now I just have to compete, do well, and go out there to win a medal. Gold.
Follow Alston Nutter on Instagram to keep up with his career and competitive schedule.