Canal Winchester High School wrestling coach Trent Brooks long has been grateful to his high school coach, Jeff Hammond, for helping guide him to a third-place finish in the Division II state tournament as a senior at Watkins Memorial in 1995.

Canal Winchester High School wrestling coach Trent Brooks long has been grateful to his high school coach, Jeff Hammond, for helping guide him to a third-place finish in the Division II state tournament as a senior at Watkins Memorial in 1995.

In addition, Hammond inspired Brooks to pursue a career as a teacher and to start the Indians' wrestling program.

"I was a stubborn, hard-headed kid and Jeff completely changed my life around," Brooks said. "He guided my ambition in wrestling and he helped get my life on track by emphasizing the importance of school, family and wrestling. I decided to coach and teach to follow in Jeff's footsteps because of the positive impact he had on me."

More than 16 years later, Brooks is coaching Hammond's nephew, Nick Hammond, who has emerged as one of the Indians' top wrestlers as a freshman. Nick had a 20-10 record at 132 pounds this season but recently dropped to 126, where he is 1-0.

"I've known his family for almost 20 years and I'm honored that Nick's a part of my team," Brooks said. "Nick already can go with anyone in our room, including our state qualifiers, and if he puts the time into it, he could develop into the best wrestler we've had come through our program."

Nick was born into a wrestling family and began competing in the sport at the age of 6 under the guidance of his father, Todd, who was a three-time Division II state qualifier for Hamilton Township from 1991-93. Todd's four brothers also were heavily involved in the sport.

Jeff placed third at state at 119 as a senior at Wehrle in 1983 before coaching Watkins Memorial from 1993-2005. He returned to Watkins Memorial this season as an assistant coach.

"I've been around wrestling my whole life and I've learned a lot from my family, especially my dad, who has taught me more about wrestling than anyone else," Nick said. "My dad was (an assistant) wrestling coach at Hamilton Township (for four seasons) when I was younger and I went to wrestling practice with him and learned a lot from working with older kids."

Nick placed seventh in the state tournament as a sixth-grader at Williamsport Westfall Middle School before finishing sixth at state as an eighth-grader at Canal Winchester Middle School.

This season, he has placed in the top 10 of each of the four tournaments in which he's competed, including going 4-2 and placing seventh in the Medina Invitational Tournament on Dec. 28 and 29.

"I'm little for a 132-pound wrestler, but I was able to out-quick and out-skill some of the older kids who were as strong or stronger than me," Nick said. "I've been doing well on my feet and on top. I'm good at an outside single (takedown) and I can ride people."

Nick has set his sights on trying to become a four-time Division I state placer with an ultimate goal of eventually winning a state championship. Jeff said Brooks will help his nephew achieve those goals.

"It's great to know that my nephew is being coached by him because he's one of the best coaches around and he's done an amazing job of building that program," Jeff said. "Nick has a lot of potential and if he works hard and listens to his coaches, he'll go a long way in the sport."