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Simmonds holding strong on line

COACHABLE — Martin County West lineman Nathan Simmonds (70) gets coached on the sideline with teammate Payton Anderson (left) during the Mavericks’ Section 3A quarterfinal game against Sleepy Eye Public on Tuesday night in Sherburn. Simmonds has impacted the Mavericks on both sides of the ball this season, whether it’s from left offensive tackle, defensive tackle or during special-teams play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

Whether it’s from his spot at left offensive tackle, defensive tackle or multiple positions on special teams, Nathan Simmonds is impacting almost every play.

Simmonds has played regularly in all three facets of the Martin County West Mavericks’ football games this year.

MCW head coach Tom Elliott said having a guy like Simmonds playing almost every down has been the infusion of energy the Mavericks needed.

“Nate has a huge effect for us on the field,” Elliott said. “He is a high-energy guy who always keeps the boys motivated. But he doesn’t just talk the talk, he backs it up with his play and the kids take notice. He was a real shot in the arm at the right time when the program needed it.”

Though he puts in full effort on both sides of the ball, Simmonds has his preferences.

“I like defense a lot better. That might be the wrestler in me,” Simmonds said. “Just being able to hit, just wrap up without having to worry about getting a holding call or getting a penalty thrown on me.”

Simmonds has played for the Maverick varsity team for two seasons after leaving football to run cross country in ninth and 10th grades.

He said he switched from football after his eighth grade season because he had trouble controlling the ball.

“I switched away from football because after the eighth-grade season I felt like I wasn’t very good at football,” Simmonds said. “I had troubles with catching and holding onto the football, so I knew I was never going to get a skill position. Then I missed all my friends who play football, so I decided to come back. I knew I was going to be a lineman, so I just embraced it. Wasn’t at war with it.”

Many of Simmonds teammates on the Fairmont/Martin County West Red Bulls wrestling team also helped bring him back to football.

Alongside Nathan Simmonds, brother Connor Simmonds and teammates Jaxson Rohman, Payton Anderson, Blake Jagodzinske, Lucas Jagodzinske and Miles Fitzgerald all play football for the Mavericks and wrestle for the Red Bulls.

Nathan Simmonds said when he’s not playing football, he wrestles in the spring and summer. Simmonds said playing football with teammates and friends he knows outside of football helps him.

“It actually makes it a lot easier to know who you’re talking to, and everyone already has that connection so you’re not working back,” Simmonds said. “You’re not switching different people around, you’re mostly seeing the same people the whole time.”

Those friendships and hard work together have brought success for the Mavericks this season.

For the first time since 2013, the Mavericks won a playoff game and are guaranteed to end the season with a winning record. Now the Section 3A No. 2-seeded Mavericks are looking to get to the section championship, which they can achieve with a win over the No. 3-seeded Wabasso Rabbits at 3 p.m. today in Sherburn.

Simmonds said the success the team has had this season compared to his first season, last year, has brought more happiness to the locker room.

” … Winning always brings more fun to the team. I think the biggest change that brought us success is everyone coming together and figuring out where they need to be and how to perform in their spot,” said Simmonds.

And perform the Mavericks have. MCW ended the regular season with a record of 5-3, losing to Class AA No. 5-ranked Redwood Valley, Class AAA No. 2 ranked Jackson County Central and Class AA No. 10-ranked Maple River.

The Mavericks posted wins of 28-18 over Class AA opponent New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and 49-6 over Class AA opponent Le Sueur-Henderson.

But Simmonds’ athletic success is not limited to football as he went to the state individual wrestling tournament for the second time last March. He also played a role in the Red Bulls team state appearance two seasons ago and helped Fairmont/Martin County West end second as a team.

Simmonds said he has favorite aspects of both football and wrestling, but they are based on different things.

“The team aspect of it is probably my favorite part (of football),” Simmonds said. “Being out there with this group of guys the whole time, being there to cheer each other on. It’s always a group effort out there. Probably the other part is how there are a bunch of different aspects to it. Strength, conditioning, being smart out there, I like trying to use every single part of me to see how good I can be.

“I like how (wrestling) really tests every part of you. Emotional, physical, mental, everything is put out there and it’s just you. It’s not like football, where you have a team to back you up the whole time.”

Elliott said Simmonds is not only a good player, but a hard worker.

“Nate is a real pleasure to coach,” Elliott said. “He’s a guy who has a great attitude everyday and is always willing to learn and accept coaching. That was big for him coming back to football last year, as he was definitely behind his teammates as to the ins and outs of football. But through his attitude and effort he has been able to close that gap and turn himself into a fine football player.”

Whether it’s on the wrestling mat or all over the football field, Simmonds will continue to make an impact for MCW teams through the rest of his senior season.

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