Versatile Nicholson had strong year

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

FRONT ROYAL — Matt Nicholson is a three-sport standout. While most athletes would find it tough to excel and find the time for so many sports, Nicholson said it’s just something he’s used to.

“I’ve been playing so many since I was probably about five — I’ve been playing all three sports and sometimes four,” Nicholson said. “I’m pretty used to it.”

This season Nicholson played four sports again, as he played both baseball and track and field in the spring. However, halfway through the season Nicholson decided to give up baseball to focus on track.

It’s one thing to play so many sports, but another to have a strong season in each one the way Nicholson did this season. And that kind of season is what led Nicholson to be chosen as The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2012-13 Male Athlete of the Year.

Nicholson played football in the fall and did his part to lead the Wildcats to a successful season, where they lost in the first round of the playoffs.

“Football, we had a good season team-wise,” Nicholson said. “We were all playing together and learning a lot. I felt like I contributed a lot and all the other guys did, too.”

Nicholson played at wide receiver and defensive back. On offense, he had 26 receptions for 356 yards and seven touchdowns. Nicholson also drew a lot of double-teams throughout the year, which helped open things up for his teammates.

Defensively, Nicholson finished with 19 tackles and two interceptions.

“When the ball is in the air, you feel like he can always go up and get it,” Warren County football coach Tony Tallent said. “Having him also deep on punt returns was also another way to start a drive in a positive way. Matt’s an explosive athlete. People who can start and stop and jump like he can are game-changers. When you have that type of ability and are able to dictate some things to the other team, it makes what you’re doing offensively or defensively a little easier.”

Nicholson followed up a strong football season with a solid basketball season in the winter.

The senior led the Wildcats and the area in scoring, averaging 20.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

“I was real happy with my performance in basketball this year, individually,” Nicholson said. “Team-wise we were a little below par, but we went out there and gave it us our best.”

Nicholson said basketball is his favorite sport, because it’s the one he played first.
In the spring, Nicholson eventually gave up baseball to focus on track and it paid off for him.

Despite a hamstring injury late in the season, Nicholson advanced to the Group AA state track meet and finished sixth in the high jump and ninth in the long jump.

Tallent said playing in so many sports, definitely helps Nicholson become a better overall athlete.

“I know the long jump and high jump has helped him be more explosive and gain some of those types of advantages,” Tallent said. “Obviously, the conditioning that basketball provides, the non-stop transition type game that’s helped him continue to grow as an athlete in multiple phases.”

Nicholson will now take his athleticism to Virginia Military Institute, where he will play football next season.

Nicholson said he thinks his senior year helped get him ready for playing at the next level, and he’s excited to start the new journey.

Nicholson had a solid high school sports career at Warren County and said that he really enjoyed his time there.

“The four years were special, it was like a family with all the teammates in every sport,” Nicholson said. “The coaches, they were there for you whenever you needed them. They’re just like your best friends.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com