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FEATURE: Nick Simmons gets unorthodox



Nick Simmons is not your average 55 kg wrestler.

His height and style separate him from the other wrestlers in his weight class. At 5-foot-10, Simmons is a head above others in the 55 kg/121 lbs. weight class.

"He is really tall for his weight class and is able to use his strength and height to an advantage," U.S. National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones said. "I think when he is wrestling at international and U.S. tournaments, and all the wrestlers are in the weigh in line, everybody has to look up at Nick because he is so much taller than everybody."

The average height for the weight class is about 5-5.

Both 2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo competed in his weight class, but neither have returned to the mat, leaving the competition wide open for Simmons to claim the top spot.

Simmons captured the national title at the 2009 U.S. Senior Nationals in April, making him the No. 1 seed at the World Team Trials in Council Bluffs, Iowa, May 30-31.

He has the confidence and experience that it takes to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Denmark.

"I wrestled alright at Nationals," Simmons said. "But I am training and working on things so that I wrestle better at Trials. It would be a great thing to represent the U.S. in September. I've been traveling all over for the past few years for international wrestling. It would be a good thing to finally put it into show at the World Championships."

Not only is Simmons unusually tall for this weight class, he uses an unorthodox style of wrestling to score quickly and from anywhere.

"I tend to make stuff up when I wrestle," he said. "I don't think when I wrestle. I just do it."

This is the mentality Simmons has had all of this life. He and his brother, Andy, another successful Senior-level athlete, began wrestling at five years old and have been successful ever since. In high school, Nick went undefeated holding a record of 211-0, had 187 pins and was a four-time Michigan state champion for Williamston High School. At Michigan State University, he was a four-time NCAA All-American but never was able to win an NCAA title.

"You have to go out there thinking you aren't going to lose and you can't have doubts in your mind," Simmons said. "It is just how we grew up and carry it on through now."

After graduating from Michigan State, Simmons left to go train with Troy Steiner and Jim Zalesky at Oregon State University. For the past two years, he has been progressing on the Senior level.

"The transition has been good," he said. "It was a good situation. They wanted me and my brother to come out and train. The coaching staff out there is great and they do so much for me. I can't thank them enough."

Jones said he is looking forward to watching Simmons continue to progress.

"He doesn't let things that he can't control get in his way," Jones said. "He keeps a good perspective on things and is a fine young man who has great character. He keeps a good focus on those things that are important to him and minimizes things that could distract him. Each year, he has been progressing toward putting in a dominant performance like Nationals and he has the capability of making the World Team this year."

At the end of the day, Simmons is still No. 1 in the U.S. but he wants more.

He wants to have his hand raised in September as the World champion. If he can do that, he will tower over his other opponents when he stands at the top of the podium.

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