Woodland High senior Gavin Nix signed on Jan. 31 to wrestle at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. On hand for the signing were, from left, front row, Ronald Nix, grandfather; Kevin Nix, father; Leslie Nix, mother; Joann Nix, grandmother; back row, WHS head wrestling coach Adrian Tramutola; WHS athletic director John Howard; WHS principal Wes Dickey; WHS assistant wrestling coach Ross Cravens; and Talan Nix, brother.


When the Woodland wrestling team captured the Class 5A state duals championship in January, senior Gavin Nix was on the bench. When the Wildcats look to pull off a double this week in the state traditional tournament, Nix will once again be relegated to a spectator.

That’s because an injury suffered in late December has kept Nix from being able to wrestle at full-strength. He and his Woodland coaches finally reached the point where they realized his future should be the main priority and shut him down for the rest of the season.

They made the decision so that Nix could be healed up when he reports this summer to the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he will join the Mariners wrestling program.

“It’s just a great opportunity, and I’ve always wanted to serve in the military,” said Nix, who signed his national letter of intent last month. “I’ll get to go to school and wrestle. I’ll go to school for four years, and then have a five-year commitment after.”

While Nix is clearly coveted by the academy for his wrestling prowess, Woodland head coach Adrian Tramutola said he’s a better person and student.

“He fits the mold for everything that any of these military academies or universities are looking for,” Tramutola said of Nix. “He’s got an incredible family who has raised him the right way. …

“He’s talented, obviously, but a lot of his success has come from hard work and wrestling the best kids. He’s going to be a quality fit for them.”

Before he heads off to Kings Point, New York, Nix will hope to see his teammates step up and help Woodland win another state title later this week at Macon Centreplex. Had he been healthy, Nix would have been competing in the 113-pound weight division with a great chance at finishing as a state-placer for the second time in his career.

Even though he didn’t compete in the Region 7-AAAAA traditional meet earlier this month, Nix was still on hand to watch the Wildcats. He cheered when teammates would capture a first-place medal and wrap an arm around them when things didn’t go their way.

Through it all, Nix gave off an air of support.

“It’s hard, because I was wanting to go out and win a state championship,” he said that day. “Unfortunately, I’m not going to get that opportunity. It still feels good to come out here and help lead the team.”

Nix added, “No matter what, I still want to be here for the team. I’ve always been at practice. I’ll always be there for the team, because they’ve always been there for me.”

Nix was there for the Wildcats in the duals tournament, wrestling in the semifinals. Despite his shoulder injury, Nix pinned his opponent in the first period to help Woodland easily dispatch Veterans.

In the finals, Buford would be sending out Stanford signee Logan Ashton at 113. Nix and the Woodland coaches discussed what would be best for the team, and the decision was made to send freshman Colton Bishop out to face Ashton.

Bishop ended up losing an 8-7 decision, but his fight against one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in Georgia fired up his teammates at a time when Woodland was trailing in the match.

“When [Bishop] was walking off the mat, he came up and said he did it for me,” Nix recalled. “That says a lot about how close our team is.”

In the end, the Wildcats rallied to capture the state title that had eluded them since winning the 2011 duals crown. Had Nix tried to wrestle Ashton and ended up getting pinned, the Wolves may well have won the championship.

Instead, Nix made the selfless move, and Bishop held up his end of the deal.

“It was awesome, just seeing how deep our team is,” Nix said. “… I thought he had a better opportunity than me, because I was hurt. I wanted to do what was best for the team. At that moment, he was the guy to go out there.”

The duals state semifinal victory proved to be Nix’s final match of the season and his Woodland career. He’s faced more than his fair share of adversity in that span.

Despite a stellar freshman year at the 106-pound division, he got bumped out of the lineup at the end of the season, as the Wildcats dropped some of their star wrestlers down a class. Nix picked up a fifth-place finish at state his sophomore year before a broken ankle derailed his junior campaign.

He was putting together an outstanding senior season until getting injured at a tournament in Florida. But his ability to approach the setbacks with a positive attitude has impressed his coach.

It’s also what makes him an ideal fit to wrestle for a service academy.

“When you look at the big picture, comparing what it looks like he’s losing now to what he’s going to gain in the future, it puts it into perspective,” Tramutola said. “He’s disappointed, but in the grand scheme of things, you have to do what’s best for his health and for his future at the Merchant Marines.”