The Polar Bear keeps on winning as a recruiting decision nears


The Polar Bear nickname, the kind of wonderful nickname that must be given by others and not self-applied, was born from humble beginnings.

The middle-school wrestling coach and some moms of the wrestlers attached the label to Nash Hutmacher back when he was just about to start kicking people’s butt. Back when he was an eighth or ninth grader, a few years before he was one of the most high-profile football recruits on the board for Nebraska, Wisconsin and Oregon.

“Big dude and I got blonde hair, I guess,” Nash Hutmacher says. “That’s what they called me and it just kind of stuck.”

What we all know is it would be the kind of name that wouldn’t stick if a guy didn’t deserve to have it. But when pinning someone in basically 10 seconds to win another state wrestling championship – “Nine seconds,” Hutmacher good-naturedly and accurately says – it belongs.

That nine-second victory became one of those things that goes viral one social video. One of those remarkable displays that makes people who follow football recruiting want a guy to say he’s coming to their school even more.

“That was kind of the whole mentality all year is just go out and dominate and leave no doubt that I was the best heavyweight in South Dakota,” says Hutmacher, who won all four of his matches combined at that state meet in 119 seconds, running his streak of consecutive matches won as a high schooler to 123.

Forget the best heavyweight in South Dakota thing. He has as much claim as any to being the best in the country at his age. And it’s understood by his opponents, some of whom will sheepishly joke with him after he puts them down in a matter of seconds.

Hutmacher is as humble as he is determined about it all. “I try to take it as seriously as I can … Some of the guys go out there, and when we’re shaking hands, I can tell they’re done before we’ve even started. They’re already counting it as a loss.”

If that wasn’t enough, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound multi-sport star from Chamberlain, South Dakota, added to his high school legend this past weekend, winning gold in the discus and the shot put, where he threw a new PR of 54 feet, 1 inch. This precedes a busy summer in which he’ll compete in wrestling in the junior duals in Tulsa, and then the national championships for freestyle and Greco wrestling in Fargo in July.

And, oh yeah, there’s the biggest thing of all to most reading this: He’s going to pick the college he’ll play football at before his senior year this fall. “Who knows? Maybe it will be July. It will be some time right in there – July to the beginning of August, hopefully making the decision,” he tells Husker247.

That’s a lot to have on the mind, enough to knock some teenagers over. But Hutmacher is used to staying busy. He started wrestling in the first grade, and was even placing fifth in the state meet as a heavyweight by the eighth grade. He started tackle football in the fifth grade, and track and field events not soon after that. Taking it all on isn’t a big deal to him. It’s just … routine.

“Nash leads and he doesn’t even know it. He does everything right,” Chamberlain football coach George Caine said after Hutmacher was recently named the Sioux Falls Argus Leader’s Boys Athlete of the Year.

He gets up at 5:30 on every Monday-Wednesday-Friday to start lifting with his father, Joe Hutmacher, who is full of wisdom about life in the weight room, and how to make it translate to other sports.

“It’s big just to have his brain, because he was a big-time powerlifter back in the day,” Nash says. “So he knows how to get strong, build explosive power and everything that comes with athletics.”

A Hutmacher lifting session is something a bit more severe than your evening trip to Anytime Fitness: Nash benched 420 the other day, did a double dead-lift of 565, and had a full-parallel squat of 620.

As a football player, he is alluring to schools as both an offensive lineman and defensive lineman, though it’s the latter the Huskers seem to have in mind for him, and also the position he favors for his college career at the moment. Although he notes that he’s gone back and forth on which side of the ball is best for his future over the years. The 247Sports rankings have high regard for him as a four-star recruit, placing him 323rd overall in the 2020 class. And the idea of Nebraska adding him to a class that already has four-star offensive lineman Turner Corcoran (Lawrence, Kansas) makes Husker recruitniks salivate.

You want some ownership of that whole 500-mile radius thing? Two big boys can go a long way in that.

“I want to be involved 100 percent in Nash’s recruiting,” Corcoran said recently. “He is a key element to what will help develop this 2020 class. … Landing Nash would be big. He’s a force to be reckoned with. I’m going to flat out say it, but we need him. He’s huge.”

Showing how much Nebraska wants him, Hutmacher was the Huskers’ first official visitor back in the spring, the kind of visits this staff doesn’t just hand out in to anybody this time of year.

“It’s been a lot of fun just getting to know the coaches, the people that you could possibly be spending the next four to five years of your life with,” Hutmacher says. “I’m trying to have fun with it. Some guys, they kind of get caught up in it and they kind of worry about it more than they have fun with it.”

Hutmacher also visited Oregon last weekend and has plans to hit up Wisconsin in early June. Bringing his short list down to three schools has made the process more manageable.

“You’re not worried about all kinds of coaches texting you. You’re just trying to get to know from the three schools instead of 10 to 15 schools or whatever. It helps to narrow it down like that, I’d say for sure.”

The lineman was a big fan of former Husker D-line coach Mike Dawson. But Dawson’s replacement, Tony Tuioti, has played catch up fast. He was was on the phone with Hutmacher as soon as he could be after the hire was made. That first impression was a favorable one, and the face-to-face meeting helped further the connection.

“I really like Coach T, and I think he’s doing a great job down there with the D-line,” Hutmacher says.

With Nebraska just five hours away from where he lives, and the Huskers having recent recruiting success in South Dakota with additions like Nate Gerry and the Farniok brothers, Hutmacher hears his share of “Go Big Red” well-wishes from people in town.

But, you know, Wisconsin has some representation there too, including from his middle-school principal. THE decision is the topic that comes up plenty. “Everybody kind of gives me an opinion.”

There is but one opinion that matters. Soon it will be known, soon as this summer perhaps. But The Polar Bear is not ready to give it just yet.

Not every important matter can be settled in nine seconds, after all.

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