T.J. Nelson, a wrestler with the NWO Ladies’ Wrestling Team, was crowned the NUWAY 130-pound champion at Battle Creek, Michigan on April 11. (Photo submitted)
T.J. Nelson, a wrestler with the NWO Ladies’ Wrestling Team, was crowned the NUWAY 130-pound champion at Battle Creek, Michigan on April 11. (Photo submitted)
CONTINENTAL — Tygan Nelson has some new titles to add to her resume: OHWAY Champion, NUWAY Champion and All-American Wrestler.

Tygan, who prefers to be called “T.J.”, is a sophomore at Ottawa-Glandorf High School. The young lady has been wrestling since she was 11 years old. She has been a member of the OGHS wrestling team for the past two years, and has wrestled at the varsity level. This year, she took the next step in furthering her wrestling career.

“This past winter, I was at the Van Buren Invitational (with the O-G team), and I met a girl whose dad gave me a card,” T.J. recalled. “He told me, ‘You need to call this guy.’”

The ‘guy’ was Mark Hernandez, who is the coach of the NWO Ladies’ Wrestling Team, based in Findlay.

NWO is an all-female wrestling club team, whose members range in age from five years old to college age. Currently, there are eight young ladies on the team. They hold their practices in Coach Hernandez’s basement or at the University of Findlay’s wrestling practice room. The team’s season is in March and April (T. J. cannot compete with the NWO team until her high school season has been completed, per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules); they travel to competitions held primarily in Ohio and Michigan.

T.J. put much thought into whether she wanted to wrestle against other females.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to wrestle against girls,” said the soft-spoken grappler. “I thought it would be easy.”

She soon learned that was not the case.

“Some have muscle and are more flexible that I am,” T.J. explained. “Some have more skills. I am more muscular than most girls, but some were as or more muscular than I am, or I can out-technique them.”

T.J. is one of the older girls on the NWO team. She and the coach’s daughter, Ali Hernandez, who wrestles on the Findlay High School team, have become best friends.

“She knows all the moves,” T.J. grinned.

The older girls mentor the younger ones.

“We practice, practice, practice,” Nelson reported. “Mark gives us much one-on-one instruction. If you don’t get a move, he will show you. Then you have to repeat it (the move) three times, so he knows that you get it.”

She also likes the camaraderie among her NWO teammates.

“Our coach calls us a family,” T.J. commented. “We are like sisters. We cheer for each other.”

Dawn and Brad Nelson, T.J.’s parents, are pleased with the NWO program, and especially with Coach Hernandez.

“This coach is just awesome.” Dawn asserted. “He doesn’t embarrass the girls (during meets). He tells the girls afterward how they could perform better. He picks up different techniques to teach the girls from these tournaments. A lot of his instruction is from repetition.”

Hernandez’s coaching technique complimented T.J.’s style. She mastered basic moves, which she depends upon, to show others she does not need anything fancy to win. She has three bread and butter moves from a neutral position: the Fireman; the Double Leg; and the High C. T.J.’s signature move is the Granby, when she is in the down position.

In her rookie year with NWO, Nelson fared exceptionally well. At two different War of the Roses National Girls Wrestling Series, one held in Findlay (Liberty Benton High School) on April 12, and the other held at Eastern Michigan University on April 19; T.J. placed second and third, respectively. This past weekend, she took second at the Viper Pit Girls Division in Massillon.

The highlight of her year was competing in the OH-WAY (Ohio Wrestling Association for Youth) tournament at Tiffin University on March 22. T.J. wrestled in the 126-pound weight class. Facing five opponents, she garnered two pins and two major decisions in the round-robin event to take first place. She was awarded an impressive 12-inch eagle trophy, a singlet, a t-shirt and shorts. The NWO team placed 15th out of over 200 teams.

Being the OH-WAY champ enabled T.J. to wrestle at the NUWAY (National United Wrestling Association for Youth) tournament held at Battle Creek, Michigan, at Kellogg Arena, on April 11. She wrestled up a weight class for this round-robin contest, and faced five adversaries. She walked away with three pins and one major decision, and was awarded the 130-pound championship trophy, an eighteen-inch eagle. Because she was in the top eight at NUWAY, T.J. also was given the honor of All-American Wrestler.

Her parents are quite thrilled with their daughter’s accomplishments.

“I am so proud of her,” Dawn declared. “I am really proud of her commitment and her work ethic,” added Brad. “She always works hard at all her sports.”

T.J. is in the process of learning Free and Greco-Roman styles of wrestling. She has not thought if she wants to continue her wrestling career at the collegiate level. The closest collegiate women’s wrestling program is at Eastern Michigan; Nelson is leaning toward attending Tiffin University.