Nick Nemeth Featured in Rio Rancho Observer
Related Article on Slam Sports
N.M. - WWE fans know him as Dolph Ziggler, but back in
Ohio, to many wrestling fans, he's remembered as Nick Nemeth, the
winningest wrestler ever at St. Edward's High School and, after
that, as a three-time Mid-American Conference champ at 165
Ziggler, who'll face MVP at the World Wrestling Entertainment SmackDown show at Santa Ana Star Center Sunday - the action begins at 5 p.m. - remembered a day long ago that ultimately led to his decision to become a pro wrestler.
He said he was 5 "when I went to my first WWE event at Richland Coliseum; since that day forward, I wanted to do what they did." Soon after, he enrolled in a youth wrestling program, "I walked in and went, 'Where are the ropes and the turnbuckles?' I decided to become a professional wrestler at age 12."
Hearing Rio Rancho is a hotbed for high school wrestling, and that the Star Center annually plays host for the state mat championships, Ziggler had some advice for youngsters who want to remain successful in the sport, or someday turn pro, like he did.
"Drive and determination, for anything you're going to put your mind to, that's a big part of it," he said. "It's a big pain. I wrestled for 20 years of my life, just to get a tryout. It takes all your time, (and) not just when you're at work, when you're at home. Now, I'm watching tapes, learning how to get better."
Ziggler said he had three
goals: "to get hired by WWE (check), then win a championship, then
be the best wrestler ever."
Back when he was Nick Nemeth, he wrestled for St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, where he holds the school record for most pins in a career (82). He stayed in Ohio and attended Kent State University (2000-03), joined the wrestling team and became the winningest wrestler in Kent State history, winning the MAC three times at 165 pounds (2000, '02 and '03). Although he's now third on the all-time wins list, he's still the last KSU matman to win three titles.
"Two times we were national champions - the program was amazing. Plus, going to their camps and practices, they made me strive to be the best," he said of his prep career. "That was a huge stepping stone, with my drive and determination."
Despite his success on the mats, he wasn't offered a college scholarship to wrestle.
"A bunch of kids from my high school were being recruited by Ohio colleges; they went on to become All-Americans, All Big-10. They got recruited ahead of me," he said. "I walked on as a freshman and beat the senior who was the starter."
He chuckled as he termed himself a "3.9-time MAC champion. To make a long story short, it was a decision that was reversed." At the NCAA championships, "the best I did was finishing a match away from All-American (status).
Once he finished college, where he had been wrestling at 165 and cutting weight, he found himself matched up with a wrestler who outweighed him by 100 pounds. They said "put on weight for another tryout." He succeeded the next time, made his pro debut in November 2004 and is now listed at 6-0, 221 pounds.
"My body is holding out - we take some abuse," Ziggler said. "A lot of my back pain is from a long flight. We protect ourselves pretty well; I've been pretty lucky so far. Usually my work schedule will be Saturday through Tuesday; in between, we have to drive or fly to each city and it's not easy to get a workout in. Sometimes, I get a hotel workout. I make sure to make up for it - I like to look good."
Looking good won't be enough to beat MVP Sunday evening.
"He's a good guy," Ziggler said of his opponent. "He doesn't look as good as me and I think there's a reason he wears a full-body suit, he doesn't have an eight-pack (of abs). He's a flashy guy."
Ziggler said there is some scouting involved in the WWE: "I'll watch tape, not to find a weakness, but watch how he moves and what he does, what would be the best route, signature moves he does.
"It's all about making a great show."
Ziggler, who'll turn 30 next month, said he's gone "old school," employing a sleeper hold, maybe something he saw at the show at Richland Coliseum more than two decades ago.
"Maybe two months worth," is how long he said he's been working on the move. "When I was in high school and college, I did work on a submission-type of style. It's something no one's done in a while - it's perfect for me. I'm not the biggest guy."
Ziggler was asked what he'd be doing if pro wrestling hadn't panned out.
"I think about that all the time," he said. "What if I was injured? Right before my tryout I was living in Phoenix, applying to Arziona State law school; I was going to become a lawyer - and that still may happen someday.
"I always thought I'd be a good attorney if I wasn't doing this," he said. "I pride myself - I did my work in school and I want to take myself seriously."
Ziggler was here last year in a WWE show.
"It was actually an awesome show," he recalled. "The fans were great - the better the turnout, the better it is for us. Our tickets start at $15: You can't go to a concert for $15. Get the kids together to enjoy it."
He wishes he'd have more time to see the Land of Enchantment.
"We fly in, get to work; fly out, get to another town," he said. "It's beautiful, obviously. I see it as we whiz by."