Football or wrestling? For Nebraska commit Nash Hutmacher, it was all about opportunity

Photo: Michael G Brown Photography
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Joe and Laura Hutmacher could tell their son, Chamberlain (S.D.) High School defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher, had a lot on his mind as he sat through the first half of Nebraska’s season opener against Colorado last September.

“He was pretty quiet, chewing his lip,” Joe recalled. “You could just see him processing everything.”

Beyond soaking in the spectacle of nearly 90,000 people crammed into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Hutmacher was weighing the merits of football vs. wrestling.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound senior nicknamed the Polar Bear is well qualified in both sports, leading to a unique recruiting situation and a tough decision.

He held scholarship offers from Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin in football, with wrestling offers from Wisconsin and South Dakota State and interest from Ohio State in wrestling.

If possible, he probably would have competed in both sports. But academics, as well as the mental and physical toll such a combo would take on his body essentially wiped out that scenario.

“To be as good as I want to be,” Nash explained, “I realized I had to pick just one so I can be great at that and not have to worry about doing two different things.”

Joe, who prefers watching his son wrestle, was part of those discussions.

“We talked over the pros and cons of both and had a lot of conversations about his passion for both sports,” he said. “I think he just loves to compete.”

That decision was clearly weighing on Nash through the first half of attending his first major college football game last September. But by the second half, Joe said his son seemed to relax and started engaging with the game.

Chamberlain senior Nash Hutmacher poses for a photo with Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Hutmacher verbally committed to the Cornhuskers on Saturday. (Photo: Submitted to Argus Leader)

The next day on the drive home, the Argus Leader Boys Athlete of the Year for 2018-19 told his parents where things stood. He wanted to play football.

Asked what led him to choose football, Nash, who announced his commitment to Nebraska on Saturday, pointed to the opportunities it offered beyond college, adding that he’s developed an affinity for the sport as he’s gotten older.

“Honestly, (the decision) wasn’t that hard at the time,” he said, “but the more I think about it, the more I’m going to miss the sport of wrestling. It’s starting to sink in, but I 100-percent think I’m making the right decision.”

Though he will ultimately have to sacrifice wrestling for his football career, Nash’s prowess on the mats served him well on the recruiting trail.

Ranked No. 1 nationally at 285 pounds by FloWrestling, Nash became the first heavyweight in state history to win three consecutive state titles and enters his senior season riding a 123-match win streak.

Chamberlain’s Nash Hutmacher after winning his semifinal match Saturday in Rapid City. (Photo: SDPB)

Outside the high school circuit, he has won two national titles, including the national Folkstyle crown earlier this year and has placed highly at other major events. Nash will look to complete the triple crown (Freestyle and Greco-Roman) in Fargo next month at the prestigious Junior Nationals, which could feature the nation’s top five heavyweights in one bracket.

That success on the national wrestling circuit helped Nash stand out with Nebraska.

“He is the type of guy Scott Frost really wants here,” said Husker Online publisher Sean Callahan. “That blue-collar, tough Midwest kid who likes to hunt and fish. He kind of checks all the boxes for the type of lineman they want to bring into the program.”

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