By VICTOR FLORES firstname.lastname@example.org
The Snake River High School wrestling team was on the bus, about to leave for a match. Before hitting the road, head coach Jeff Gardner gave his team a speech.
Sophomore Treyton Nilsson, in a poor mood because he was cutting weight, spoke up.
“Blah, blah, blah, let’s get gone Gardner,” Nilsson said to his coach.
Gardner enjoys Nilsson’s sense of humor, but that wasn’t the right time for Nilsson to goof around. Gardner ordered Nilsson outside, telling him that if he didn’t improve his attitude, he might kick him off the team.
“I wasn’t going to boot him off the team,” Gardner admitted. “I’m glad I didn’t.”
Nilsson won three state titles after that day, making him the ninth four-time champion in 3A history (the second, after Shawn Jones, under Gardner). The 113-pound senior saved his best for last, riding a 45-1 record to this year’s title.
Nilsson’s near perfect end to a 160-16 career earned him the title of 2014-15 Post Register Wrestler of the Year.
“My dad always told me I could beat anybody I wanted to as long as I worked hard enough,” Nilsson said.
To Nilsson, this year’s lone loss sticks out like a mustard stain on a tuxedo.
Nilsson faced Nampa’s Bryce Fogleman in the first place match of January’s Red Halverson Invitational. Fogleman, this year’s 113-pound 5A state champion, handled Nilsson in an 8-2 decision.
The two faced off again a week later in at the Idaho Hall of Fame Classic, which didn’t count toward the wrestlers’ records. Nilsson lost a tight one in overtime.
Those losses still irk Nilsson, whose 45 wins included 23 pins.
“I know he’s a really good wrestler ,” Nilsson said of Fogleman. “But I know I could beat him.”
As a freshman, Nilsson lost three times to Bear Lake’s Luke Brogan, who Nilsson said walked around “like he was too good for everybody.”
Down 8-7 to Brogan in the 98-pound state title match, Nilsson escaped to earn a point. With 13 seconds left, he sealed his first state championship with a takedown.
Last season, Nilsson faced Fruitland’s Kendall Fletcher in the 106-pound state title match. Before the bout, friends told Nilsson that Fletcher was talking trash, saying he would dominate their match.
Nilsson won on a technical fall.
“I just feel like you need to be humble,” Nilsson said. “Every time I wasn’t humble, I ended up getting beat.”
Nilsson thrives off of failure because he abhors it. Failure pushed him to improve his strength and technique each season. It’s why he never failed to win a state title. Why his loss rate each season dropped from 10 to three to two to one. And why all 16 mustard stains on his record drive him mad.
“There are some kids who get beat by somebody and they’re afraid of them,” Gardner said. “The bigger the match is, the better he performs.”
While Nilsson critiqued his few imperfections, opposing coaches stood in awe of his ability.
“He’s sound technically, commits very few mistakes and maintains his leads,” retired Idaho Falls coach Jeff Einerson said. “I wouldn’t call him flashy or anything. He’s just a good, hard-nosed wrestler .”
Nilsson’s near-perfect season and fourth state title overshadow the accomplishment he’s most proud of — Snake River’s 12th state title (its first since 2011) this year. Other than his last-second win over Brogan three years ago, his team’s state championship is the highlight of his high school career.
The only college that has expressed interest in Nilsson for wrestling is Oklahoma City University. After he graduates in the spring, he will go on an LDS mission after he graduates in the spring, which he believes is major reason for the absence of college options. He’s also below the lightest college weight class (125 pounds).
Nilsson thinks the offers will increase after his mission. Regardless, he’s ecstatic about his historic career, the relationships he formed and the support he received from his family, particularly his parents, Trent and Lisa.
Gardner knows he might never coach another four-time state champion.
“It’s really rare to get a kid like that,” Gardner said. “That kid’s going to be successful at whatever he does.”