Two of Northern Michigan’s youngest prospects, Alston Nutter (66 kg) and Benji Peak (59 kg,) know what it’s like to walk a different path. In 2016, Nutter decided to bypass his remaining two years of high school in order to get a jumpstart on a full-time Greco-Roman career at the Olympic Training Site in Marquette. Likewise, following his title-winning run at the Wisconsin state tournament in March, Peak chose to do the same, and he, too, is now at Northern in lieu of finishing out his senior year the more conventional way. There is obvious symmetry involved with this pair. Nutter, who just turned 18 two weeks ago, is also originally from Wisconsin. Peak, a mere sprite at 17, is just about the same age Nutter was when he set sail for NMU. Their relationship is a strong one, on and off the mat, so it would seem to make perfect sense for the two younguns to embark on another journey together that stands out from the norm.
By the time you read this, the two athletes will be starting a multi-week training camp in Copenhagen, Denmark. No other teammates or coaches are joining them. All on their own, Nutter and Peak are 4,100 miles away in a far-off country looking to add a hefty dose of foreign flavor to their Greco-Roman arsenals. For normal folk, this kind of adventure might appear to be out of the ordinary. But for US Greco-Roman athletes, traveling overseas for high-quality training is commonplace and the fact that Nutter and Peak are still in the beginning stages of their respective careers is part of what makes going overseas to this extent such a potentially beneficial endeavor.
“With their schoolwork taking place online and them being so close to finishing high school, this is a limited time offer,” says Combat Wrestling Club founder Lucas Steldt, who has mentored both wrestlers and also helped facilitate this trip. “Once they enter college, I don’t know if they’ll have this chance again until after they graduate.”
The man who picked up the American tandem at the Copenhagen airport is Thor Hyllegaard Pedersen, a former Danish Senior competitor and current coach. The athletes are training with Pedersen at his club and rooming together in a dorm directly across from the facility. So in a way, it isn’t that much different than being back in Marquette, with one exception: their level of accountability will be ratcheted up a notch. NMU coaches Rob Hermann and Andy Bisek aren’t there to look after them and when it comes to meals, the wrestlers are going to have to figure that out as they go along. It’s an experience, to be sure. But it is also a surefire way to see what you’re made of, which is another bulletpoint Stedlt likes about the situation.
“They’ll be doing their school work while overseas and they will also be buying and cooking their own food,” says Steldt. “They are living Greco. This is Greco. Traveling the world, absorbing cultures, and seeing what true Greco is about. Also, they are becoming young adults, young men. Taking ownership of yourself and your profession is where they are at. Athletes in their position at this time in their career must take ownership if they are to grow in the sport.”
Aside from the elite-level training that comes part-and-parcel with the trip, there is a competitive element, as well. This Saturday, the pair will be competing in a combined Cadet/Junior tournament known as the Bear Cup that features modified weight classes to accommodate both age groups. Then it is another two weeks of training with Pedersen until October 27th, when Nutter and Peak will be reunited with the US delegation that is competing at the 2017 Klippan Cup in Klippan, Sweden. After that, one more Swedish event is on the schedule, the proceeding weekend’s Malar Cupen in Västerås. As soon as the Malar Cupen is wrapped up, so will the trip be, with both athletes coming home not only more skilled, but also, more prepared to face the breadth of competition awaiting them the rest of the year.
“They both have a lot of growing to do in this sport,” admits Steldt. “Besides NMU and the Olympic Training Center, what better place is there to be than staying over in a country and region of the world that is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Greco-Roman wrestling?”
Nutter & Peak’s Competitive Schedule
Alston Nutter — 66 kg, NMU/OTS
Benji Peak — 60 kg, NMU/OTS
Saturday, October 14th — 2017 Bear Cup, Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
*Saturday, October 28th — 2017 Klippan Cup, Klippan, Sweden
*Friday & Saturday, November 3rd-4th — 2017 Malar Cupen, Västerås, Sweden
*A large delegation of US athletes from NMU and elsewhere will also be participating in these events. Look for our full roster(s) next week!