Nick Nutter owes everything to “them.”
An incredible athlete who will be inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame during June 12 ceremonies at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth, Nutter took time to thank those who provided the motivation along the way.
They said he was too fat and would never be anything special on the offensive line of Buckeye’s football team.
He became an All-Ohioan as a guard.
They said he wasn’t ever going to be a successful wrestler at a Division II school no one knew about.
The 1992 Buckeye graduate was a champion and runner-up who finished with 115 wins. In the summer, he became a three-time Greco-Roman national champion, two-time freestyle titlist and folkstyle champion.
They said Ohio State was too big a step up as a collegiate wrestler.
He became a two-time national qualifier and finished seventh in 1996. He also finished third at the Olympic Trials in 1996.
They said he would get his tail kicked if he tried his hand in mixed martial arts.
He was victorious in Brazilian Vale Tudo.
“Growing up, I was always the heavier-set kid,” Nutter said. “I was never the skinny, ripped athlete. I always had to work hard for what I got. I remember people saying, ‘Oh, you’ll never be good. You’re too fat. You’re too chubby.’ I banked that and said, ‘You know what, you’re going to eat crow. I will be successful.’
“Honest to God, that’s where the drive came from. It was people challenging me and telling me I couldn’t do something. That was the worst thing you could do to me because I’d do whatever it took to prove you wrong. I despised anyone telling me I was a failure.”
Nutter, 39, never wanted to be ordinary. Average people were the ones that punched the clock at 9 and came home at 5, lived regular lives and never stuck out in a crowd.
“I never wanted to be normal,” said Nutter, an independent contractor for electronic medical records and a color commentator for Rocktagon MMA. “Normal people aren’t successful, abnormal people are. I take pride in that. Anybody can be normal. Those people aren’t special.
“One of my coaches said you could go to parties now or have them thrown for you later. I found out even with success, when you start living like everyone else, you become everyone else.”
That attitude rubbed off no matter where Nutter went.
In high school, Nutter and James Farley had epic battles in the wrestling room. Both finished undefeated as seniors. Both were named Gazette MVPs in 1992 — Nutter was a two-time winner — and both won state titles. Nutter’s came at 189 pounds, Farley’s at 171.
That year, Ed Rupanovic joined them on the podium as a fourth-place finisher at 140 on Buckeye’s state runner-up squad.
A lot of it came from effort, but some came from the attitude Nutter instilled in the Bucks.
“It really came down to his work ethic,” Farley said. “He trained hard. He was really focused and dedicated through sports. He really put the time and energy into it more than anyone out there. He would always put in the extra effort in workouts, no matter what the sport.
“We were always partners. We knew with both of us practicing at that high level and working day to day, we’d push each other. I knew as seasons would go along, if I could beat Nick and take him down, and vice versa, it mentally made us stronger, so when we went out to compete we were always prepared. Nick was really focused.”
That attitude didn’t just stick with his drill partner, as Rupanovic saw that tenacity and toughness and used it to his benefit.
He might not have been drilling with a wrestler 50 pounds heavier than he was, but that didn’t mean Rupanovic didn’t dish it out just the same.
“You always have these group of guys that try to work a little bit harder than the rest of the team,” Rupanovic said. “Those are the ones that have more drive. Obviously with the accomplishments he had, you could see how seriously he took his training. It helped the team a lot. When you get those high energy guys, it helps all the way around.”
After a successful college career, Nutter started looking at the budding business of MMA. A training partner of former roommate Mark Coleman, Nutter took his lumps in practice to better his former roommate.
Coleman, who is now one of only 11 UFC Hall of Famers, asked him to take his shot at the sport.
At first Nutter balked at the idea. But once again, someone said he couldn’t do it. Again, he rose to the challenge and 12 hours later was booked for a fight in Tel Aviv, Israel.
He finished his career 7-2 and, as mentioned, became a world champion.
Because of all his success, Nutter will rightfully step into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame. In doing so he joins his dad, Jack, as the only father-son combination other than the Burtons of Highland to be inducted into the elite group.
“You’re very proud of all your kids,” Jack Nutter said. “Everyone has their strong points. Nick had a great career. He was the first kid to win the junior nationals and the high school nationals. He was an All-American in college.
“Just as a coach, you’re elated to have a kid like that. (As a father), it’s like a dream come true for me.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.