About six years ago, Seth Nevills was on top of the wrestling world.

He had just won his fourth straight California heavyweight state championship, a fitting end to one of the most dominant runs in high school wrestling history. Nevills had a 169-1 record at Clovis High School and pinned every opponent he faced in his final two years, according to The Clovis Roundup

Adam Tirapelle, a former three-time All-American at Illinois and Nevills’ coach at the time, told The Clovis Roundup that Nevills was so dominant his opponents would take selfies with him after the match.

Nevills, a heavyweight with Maryland wrestling, now finds himself the closest he’s been to returning to that status. He’s nationally ranked amid his best season of college wrestling and will participate in next week’s NCAA championships for the first time.

“I’m really excited to get out there and show what I can do on the biggest stage and hopefully get up on that podium,” Nevills said.

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Nevills’ ascent comes one year after he nearly quit wrestling.

After starting for most of his true freshman season with powerhouse Penn State, Nevills suffered an injury at the 2020 Big Ten tournament. The next year, he lost his spot as the Nittany Lions’ top heavyweight and competed in only five matches during his junior and senior seasons.

“After my last season, I thought I might be done,” Nevills said. “But after [coach Alex] Clemsen got a hold of me, he ignited a fire back in me to go out there and continue wrestling, and really just laid out a path and a vision to where I could achieve some of my goals. “

Nevills proved that he’s still capable of competing with some of the nation’s top heavyweights. He finished the 2023-24 regular season with a career-high 15 wins, the most impressive coming in a 4-2 decision win over Rutgers’ Yaraslau Slavikouski InterMat’s No. 10 heavyweight at the time.

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Nevills attributed his success to Maryland’s coaching staff and increased competition and action.

“I was still young, still a freshman, and then I didn’t really get a lot of experience after that,” Nevills said. “Just going through a whole entire season of taking those lumps and being tough about it … my hand fighting got a lot better working with assistant coach Devin Mellon.”

Clemsen said Nevills’ season has been especially impressive considering the wrestler had a tougher transition from Penn State to Maryland than expected. Nevills got to College Park later than he wanted and took some time to get healthy, Clemsen said.

”When you look back and evaluate all those, getting to the nationals is a pretty good accomplishment,” Clemsen said. “He is really talented.”

Even if Nevills doesn’t find success at the NCAA tournament, his season is still a massive success for the Terps. He plans to return next year and everything he’s been able to accomplish will help Maryland wrestling attract future transfers.

“His play shows that when you come here, you’re going to be prepared properly and developed and invested in and given the opportunity to go out and perform at a high level,” Clemsen
said. “Kids see that.”