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Nelson thrives with patient approach

Steve Nelson says he uses a "soft technique" in wrestling. Spiders use a "soft technique," too. They patiently spin webs. They gently snare prey.

Steve Nelson says he uses a "soft technique" in wrestling.

Spiders use a "soft technique," too. They patiently spin webs. They gently snare prey.

Nelson does the same kind of stuff to other wrestlers. His defensive style tends to turn opponents' aggressiveness against them. His poise, calm demeanor and willingness to take his time on the mat is as much a part of his success as his strength and quickness.

If you never watched his methodical approach, you might lump Nelson with many other top wrestlers - fiery, emotional guys who overwhelm opponents with their physical superiority. After all, he was 41-2 last season, won the Region 7 title and finished fourth in the state with a strong showing during the long weekend among New Jersey's top grapplers in Atlantic City.

But Nelson is the antithesis of the stereotypical top wrestler. He's ice, not fire. He's not a guy who takes the mat with an aggressive attitude and takes charge of the match with a series of offensive moves.

"I don't mind if it's 0-0 after the first period," Nelson said. "I actually kind of prefer that."

Nelson's style matches his personality. He says he's a "calm kid who tries to get along with people."

Haddon Township coach Brian Farnham says Nelson is "laid back" and has a "quiet confidence."

Nelson said his wrestling style is right for him, based on his mental makeup. But he also learned the hard way that competing in an aggressive, emotional way works against him.

"If you get mad or frustrated out there, it makes things worse," Nelson said. "I used to do that when I was younger. It never worked for me. The best approach for me is just to relax."

Nelson said his main goal in the first period is just to set the tempo of the match. He prefers to play defense, as it were, to get a feel for his opponent but also to establish control of the competition.

"So many guys like to come out and attack, attack," Nelson said. "I like to slow the pace. I like to take my time."

Invariably, Nelson takes command in the second or third period. He's so good on the mat - either on top or bottom - that he's able work his way into control, like one of those spiders who finally has its prey wrapped up in its web.

"He's such a great tactical wrestler," Farnham said. "He's great from the top position and he's great on the mat, too. He's always in control."

Farnham said Nelson's relaxed approach also is a big factor in his success.

"You can see it on the mat," Farnham said. "He never gets upset with small things. He stays on an even keel and doesn't put any pressure on himself.

"He's able to just wrestle to the best of his ability by staying in his flow and never losing his composure."

Nelson is a two-time District 28 champion. He won his first Region 7 title last season, and made his mark at the state level.

He is undecided about college but plans to wrestle at the next level. He's one of just two seniors in the lineup for the Hawks, but sets an example for the younger athletes through his work ethic and excellence on the mat.

Nelson isn't the kind of wrestler to look too far into the future. His success is based on his ability to stay calm and focused on the task at hand, controlling each confrontation, each period, each match.

But he does know where he wants to be on March 4: On the top step of the podium in Atlantic City as Haddon Township's third state champion and first since 1993.

"That's a big goal of mine." Nelson said. "Last year I almost had it. To come that close, that's what really has me going this year to try to get back there and win a state championship."