Nellis named top male athlete

JOHNSTOWN – It did not take long before the student-athletes and their families at the table reserved for Johnstown High School to realize who the 2013 Fulton County Athlete of the Year was.

When WENT-AM 1340 news and sports director Tom Roehl, the emcee for the 26th annual Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce Sports Awards Banquet said the athlete had overcome an injury, they began to celebrate in honor of Joe Nellis.

“The [shoulder] injury really bummed me out and I never thought I could get back to where I ended my sophomore year,” Nellis said. “I feel like I accomplished that and now surpassed that. The working out and running at 3 in the morning paid off.”

After sitting out football and wrestling seasons in his junior year, Nellis remained sidelined at the start of the Sir Bills’ shortened 2012 football season, but came back strong on the wrestling mat.

Nellis was named a first-team Foothills Council all-star at 220 pounds, won the Class CC sectional tournament and the Section II state qualifier. At the state championship tournament in Albany, he lost his first match but rebounded to win four of his next five to post a 4-2 record on the weekend and place fifth at 220 pounds among the Division II (small-school) wrestlers. Nellis finished the season with a 33-3 record.

His success transferred over to the baseball diamond where he played a key role in the Sir Bills advancing to the Section II Class B championship game to play for their first title since 1968. Nellis was recognized as a first team Foothills Council All-Star both as a pitcher and first baseman.

I really appreciate it [the award] and am thankful for all my coaches. They have helped me all along,” Nellis said. “Coming back from an injury and working hard; people had doubts in me but my coaches kept telling me I could make it happen if I kept putting the work into it. It all came down to hard work and dedication.”

Along with his coaches, Nellis thanked his parents, Jim and Marlene Nellis, and his sister, Morgan, for their support and dedication throughout his high school career.

“I definitely have to thank my parents and all the coaches I have had through the years, right from peewees up,” he said. “They put in countless hours of traveling every week all over the state. My sister [Morgan] has always been there.”

Nellis said that he hopes his winning the award is a trend for Johnstown High School.

“Bringing it back to Johnstown for two years in a row now, with Mitch [Vdoviak] winning it last year, is great,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”