For as long as he can remember, Bellwood-Antis senior Nick Torsell has been around wrestling because he comes from a family of wrestlers.
He started wrestling in his house when he was 2 or 3 years old with his grandfather, Jim, who was a two-time District 6 champion and a 1967 Central Northwestern Regional Tournament champion for Bellefonte, was the head coach at B-A for three years and coached in the Altoona program. Nick's uncles, Vince and Shane, also wrestled for Bellwood.
"My family is a wrestling family," Nick said. "People were always watching wrestling on TV. I watched my uncle Vince wrestle at UPJ. My pap always coached me."
Mirror photo by?Patrick Waksmunski
Nick Torsell is 15-3 for Bellwood-Antis this season.
"He's got relatives who were all very good at wrestling, and it's carried through," B-A coach Ron Wilson said. "His uncle Shane was talented and wrestled for us at Bellwood. His gradfather was really good wrestler for Bellefonte and St. Francis and coached for a long time. There's a lot of wrestling that has gone on in the family, and that's always beneficial because the kids know what to expect."
While he's seen a lot of things since he started rolling around with his grandfather in the house, Nick wasn't really expecting what happened to him at the District 6 Class AA Tournament last year.
A No. 6 seed for the tournament at 160 pounds, Torsell reached the semifinals by knocking off the third seed, Juniata's Derek Beitz, 3-2, in the quarterfinals before losing in overtime to Penns Valley's second seeded Corey Hazel, 6-4.
n He is 15-3 with six pins as a senior at 170.
n His run toward a Southwest Regional berth was halted with a questionable call last year.
n He's 61-40 as a four-year starter.
In the consolation semifinals, he found himself in a 5-5 bout late in the third period with Huntingdon's No. 5 seed Matt Norris. Soon, riding from the top position, his run at a Southwest Regional Tournament berth came to a confusing and shocking end.
"I was in control, and the kid stood up with 10 seconds to go in the match, he runs out of bounds, I follow and I get called for fleeing the mat," Torsell said.
Norris was awarded a point, and he won the bout, 6-5. Most fleeing the mat calls are called on the bottom wrestler running out of bounds, and it's rare to see the top wrestler whistled for it.
"As far as a bad call like that, that's never happened to me," he said. "I was pretty traumatized. I was very surprised. I was shocked because I didn't know what they called me for. My coaches were screaming. My parents were screaming. I was just confused."
"I don't know how many coaches came up to me and said that was just an awful call," Wilson said. "But like I told him, that call was a bad call, but you shouldn't have been in a position where that call would have made a difference in the match. He is good enough that could have won that match outright. So, hopefully this year, he doesn't leave any of those up to chance."
Only the top four at every weight qualify for regionals, and the fifth-place bout is only wrestled in case any of the top four wrestlers can't compete at the regional. Torsell didn't recover mentally in time for the fifth-place bout and was tech-falled by Beitz.
Yes, he learned a painful but valuable lesson that day.
"I can't blame the officials because I let the match be that close," Torsell said. "So, I just want to win decisively every match I can."
"We've talked about that," Wilson said. "He needs to finish matches and score points and make sure he's the one in control of the situation."
The bad call drove Torsell, who was 17-8 as a junior, in the offseason to get better and stronger, and he's putting together a pretty good season. Holding a 15-3 record and six pins, he's the top-ranked 170-pounder in the Mirror wrestling rankings. His three losses have all been decisions, including one to Hazel.
"I've improved a lot," Torsell said. "I've done a lot of weight training since last year. I was disappointed at districts last year, so I really wanted to increase my endurance, and I've been wrestling with energy this year. So, I'm pretty confident that I can do well. There's always room for improvement, so I can't be satisfied."
"He's been doing really well," Wilson said. "He needs to be a little more consistent because he has had some peaks and valleys during the course of the year. But on a night when he's wrestling well, he's really tough. He was close to being out [of districts] last year. He's at the point where he can do some things in the postseason."
Torsell, who started at offensive guard and defensive end in football, reached the high school level after a remarkable turnaround in his wrestling success. He said he was around 3-24 as a seventh-grader, and then around 24-3 as an eighth-grader.
"It just clicked," he said. "I was awful when I was younger. I went to probably 10 tournaments in three years and never won a match. I knew the moves, but it just didn't come together until eighth grade."
He took his lumps as a freshman middleweight, going 10-13, and then he went 19-16 as a sophomore.
"That was a good year for me," Torsell said of his sophomore season. "I enjoyed it."
This season, as an experienced veteran who has gone through a lot, Torsell has been a good leader on the team, his coach said.
"He's very vocal at practice, and he spreads the wealth a little bit," Wilson said. "He pounds on just about everybody at practice. He wrestles a lot with my son, Jeremy, and that helps those two."
As the regular season winds to a close, Torsell's attention will be turned to the postseason, especially the district tournament, where he has some unfinished business.
"I would like to say I could make it to states," Torsell said, "but you just never know."