The Menlo College community mourns the passing of former men's wrestler and current assistant coach Gary Nelson. Nelson was killed in a car accident late Wednesday night. He was 24 years old.
"There are no words you could possibly put on paper that could describe Gary," said Rob Davis ('09), former Oaks teammate and roommate of Nelson. "He had such a goofy personality that when someone asked about him all I could say is ‘that's just Gary.' He never cared what anyone else thought and he made me a better person when I was with him. He had the biggest heart, and anyone who knew him, or even just met him would say the same. He was my best friend, my brother, and he will be dearly missed."
Nelson spent four years wrestling with the program, a tenure that began in the 2005-06 season and wrapped up in 2008-09. He was recruited out of Saint Petersburg, FL by then head coach and current Director of Athletics Keith Spataro. "Gary was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. He has had to overcome so much in his life and did so with an unbelievable attitude. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to know, coach and love him like my own son." Spataro said, "Gary's infectious happy spirit will be truly missed and forever remembered by the Menlo Community." When his time grappling for the Oaks came to an end, Nelson took his talents to the coaching world where he served as an assistant coach under Joey Martinez for the past three seasons.
"He was one of a kind," said Martinez, who also coached Nelson throughout his Menlo career. "Gary was an outstanding wrestler and coach, but he was an even better person. He was caring and was always there for you no matter what the circumstances were. It is sad that a person of so many incredible qualities is no longer with us."
Nelson began his Oaks stint wrestling in the 165lb. weight class throughout his freshman and sophomore campaigns, before moving up to the 174lb. weight class as a junior, and then 184lb. weight class as a senior. On the mat, Nelson proved his worth as one of the most reliable wrestlers on the squad, but off the mat is where his tremendous character traits resonated throughout the entire Menlo community and beyond.
"Gary touched so many hearts in such little time," said Sean Weeks ('10), who spent three years as Nelson's teammate, along with being one of his dearest friends. "He was a man full of determination and heart. Words cannot describe how much I will miss him."
Aside from a successful Oaks wrestling career, Nelson made his presence felt by taking an active role in the Menlo community. He played an intricate part in student government, while supporting student wellness as a Resident Assistant.
"It's hard to believe that Gary is gone. He gave back in numerous ways through his vivid personality of humor and most of all kindness," remarked Monique Cabrera ('09), former Student Body Class President, who graduated with Gary. "Gary was part of an elite group from Menlo and will truly be missed by his colleagues."
Menlo held an impromptu gathering on Thursday, as many united in the Fireside Lounge to honor Nelson's life and the contributions he made towards the school.
Please join us as we share and celebrate the life of Gary Nelson at Menlo College (campus site TBD) on Saturday, July 7, 2012 @ 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions are made to the Gary Nelson memorial/scholarship fund. All checks can be made to Menlo College in Gary Nelson's name.
If you wish to send your condolences to the family please do so at the below address:
C/O Cynthia Leibnitz (Gary's Mom)
10932 - 1st Way North
St. Petersburg, FL 33716