LHS coach DeWitt passes on life lessons to his students

New Lovell High School wrestling coach Nick DeWitt has a lot to tell his young wrestlers, life lessons about determination, guts and overcoming obstacles.Born and raised in Greybull, DeWitt battled leukemia three times in his young life, struck at age 5, 12 and 15, and he credits athletics and wrestling with helping him battle the disease.He is now in remission and enjoying life as a teacher at Lovell Middle School and a coach at LHS.The son of Brad and Kathy DeWitt, who were active in USA youth wrestling in Greybull for many years, DeWitt first hit the mat when he was 4 when his father and uncle Jim Moore ran the program. He started finding success a year later, even though he was diagnosed with leukemia, and continued with the sport for years.“When I was little it didn’t affect me at all,” he said. “I won back-to-back Greco and freestyle state championships in the fourth and fifth grade.”He got sick again in the sixth grade and was still able to compete, though he said medicine-induced weight gain affected his competitiveness.By then, DeWitt was trying all sports: football, basketball, wrestling, track and baseball, but his favorites were football and wrestling – especially wrestling, in which he had been competing for years.DeWitt got sick again at Christmas of his freshman year, and he was out of school battling the disease for the second semester of that school year and through the first semester of his sophomore year, at first alternating between Billings and Denver and then pretty much staying in Denver for treatment at Denver Children’s Hospital.[caption id="attachment_10657" align="alignright" width="285"]New Lovell High School head wrestling coach Nick DeWitt chats with senior Kenneth Powell during practice Tuesday afternoon in the LHS wrestling room. David Peck photo New Lovell High School head wrestling coach Nick DeWitt chats with senior Kenneth Powell during practice Tuesday afternoon in the LHS wrestling room.
David Peck photo[/caption]He received a bone marrow transplant on May 1 of that year, but it took time to properly take effect. He remembers coming home for the Greybull homecoming football game that fall, and by his junior year he was able to start attending school at GHS half days with the cancer in remission.DeWitt recalls fondly the support he received from the athletic community in Denver. Clint Hurdle, the Colorado Rockies manager at the time, stayed with him during his bone marrow transplant and was available for support after that. Other professionals were frequent visitors to Denver Children’s Hospital.“It was always nice to see those kind of people giving their time and effort to lift the spirits (of patients),” he said.After wrestling just two matches in his freshman year, DeWitt was anxious to return to the mat for his junior year, but he broke his collarbone at the Kaycee-Midwest Tournament, missing the rest of the season.He wrestled a full season his senior year and made it to the state tournament for coach Mark Sanford at 135 pounds.“It was tough getting back to that level,” he said. “I lost to the second-ranked kid in the first round and went 0-2, but for me it was an accomplishment to get to State.”He also wrestled on a Wyoming cultural exchange team on a trip to Scotland and Belgium.Staying with the sportDeWitt graduated from GHS in 2005 and attended Northwest College, where he was director of team operations and an assistant wrestling coach for Trapper coach Jim Zeigler. As a freshman, DeWitt wrestled with the Trapper grapplers during practice but didn’t compete. He was planning to walk on as a sophomore but suffered a stress fracture to his femur and fibula in his right leg the summer before his second year and was unable to compete.After two years in Powell DeWitt moved on to the University of Wyoming, where he landed a position as equipment manager for the UW football team and coach Joe Glenn. He earned a teaching degree, graduating in 2010 after student teaching in Powell. He coached and taught physical education at NWC for a year, also helping out with the Powell USA Wrestling program, then took at job at the Wyoming Boys School in Worland as a member of the staff, assisting with the Worland middle school and high school wrestling programs while he was there.DeWitt then returned to NWC for two years as a general college recruiter, P.E. teacher and assistant wrestling coach, then was hired to teach P.E. and health at Lovell Middle School. He is also an assistant coach for coach Doug Hazen and the LHS football team, serving as the “eye in the sky” during games and as the offensive coordinator for junior varsity games.Along with being the head LHS wrestling coach, he may help with USA Wrestling in the spring.DeWitt the coachAsked about his coaching philosophy, DeWitt said he believes strongly in building basic skills and knowledge in each athlete that they can adapt and use to find success. He wants to use his background and experience to teach skills and technique in the wrestling room and life lessons outside the room like discipline, teamwork, commitment and dedication, which he said are “engrained in the sport of wrestling and can be used all of their lives.”DeWitt knows from experience what it takes to be successful, having fought the health battles while growing up.“One of the biggest reasons for my success was the determination that came from lessons learned through wrestling, which gave me the mental and physical shape that definitely saved my life,” he said.“With my background and the history I have in the sport, I can relate it to each one of them (Lovell wrestlers). That and my work history in different types of places from the Boys School to the college kids gives me different strategies and techniques to approach different students.”DeWitt said he allows wrestlers to “be their own wrestler,” providing them with basic building blocks and fundamentals that they can build on to enhance their strengths, but they must also build up their weak areas, he added.Skye Mickelson is the LHS assistant coach, and DeWitt said Jacob Bassett and Pat Steed are working as volunteer assistants.“It’s a unique opportunity,” DeWitt said. “I’m very excited. It’s basically what I’ve always wanted to do since high school. I’ll admit, with the rivalry that’s always been there between Greybull and Lovell, I never saw myself as a Lovell Bulldog, but since I’ve been here I’ve seen nothing but positive from the teaching staff, coaching staffs and the kids. It’s a great community to get to work in.”

By David Peck