Whalin started in three sports
Buzz about this year’s senior class of guys at Douglas High School started about the time then-eighth-grader Keith Olson topped the 6-foot, 8-inch mark in height.
Olson was just the tip of the iceberg for a class that this year alone finished with three league titles and two team Northern 4A Regional runner-up finishes.
It seemed that everywhere you looked this year, somewhere in the middle of it was Nate Whalin.
Whalin, a 6-4, 220-pounder, stitched eight varsity letters to his jacket in the last four years, was a part of three league championships and will continue his athletic career next year with the Western Nevada Community College baseball team, fresh off its first appearance in the Junior College World Series.
With the growing specialization of high school athletics, particularly during the summer, he has become one of a dying breed – the traditional three-sport athlete.
“It’s all kind of crashing down right now,” Whalin said. “It’s ending really quick.
“I can’t really grasp how it feels now that it’s all over.”
For him, it seems like ages ago that he was preparing for the football season.
“It seems like it was a long time ago,” he said. “So much happened this year, and it’s all wrapping up in a hurry.
“We had a great season in football, we dominated the league. We had three chances to get into first place in basketball and then we reached the championship and then we won the league and reached the championship in baseball.”
It was everything that had come to be expected of this class.
“A lot of the coaches and teachers keep talking about how this was one of the best years, one of the best senior classes that has come through Douglas,” Whalin said. “I think for us, we just always though we’d be there in the end, at that championship game.”
During his sophomore year, Whalin was an offensive slasher while starting at forward for the basketball team and a spot-starter for the baseball team as it won its first league title in 14 years.
That summer, his friends convinced him to come out for the football team.
“I hadn’t played since I was little,” he said. “These guys were nagging me to play and I kept saying no, I didn’t have the time. I had two sports going already.
“But we were coming home from a trip to the river one day and I said I’d go ahead and play football.”
It was the time during the summer that was the most hectic, Whalin said.
“The coaches are really supportive, but it is kind of hard keeping track of what’s going on.
“There were a couple of times where I told my coaches I’d be one place, but then I’d end up at the wrong place.
“It’s hard watching your friends going on vacations during the summer. I never did, because I always had at least one sport going on.”
He played sparingly at tight end for the football team as a junior, but the more he hit the weights, the more his role started to shift on the basketball floor.
The increased bulk took away a lot of his ability to slash to the basketball through traffic.
“It was one of those things where there comes a point where you realize you’re not going to go anywhere with basketball, so I stopped focusing as much on basketball because I really started to take to football and basketball more.
“(Douglas basketball) Coach Streeter came in with a new defensive philosophy and I started just to take it upon myself to shut guys down. It became a toughness thing for me, needing to be better than the guy who has the ball.”
The added muscle also propelled him to a first-team all-league season on the baseball diamond, where he was a regular starting pitcher and a hard-hitting outfielder.
Heading into his senior season, he became part of what would end up being one of the best defensive fronts at Douglas ever.
Playing defensive tackle, he had five sacks, two fumble recoveries and one blocked punt on a defense that put together 14 consecutive scoreless quarter at one point as Douglas claimed the Sierra League title while playing all but two of its games on the road.
For a sport that he took on late in his career, football ended up being his first real shot at playing in college.
“I was all set to just go play football in college,” Whalin said. “(Douglas teammate) Sean (Molina) and I were going to find a place where we could both play.
“We were looking at Sierra College and I was talking a lot with San Diego. But WNCC came on pretty strong, so I decided to stick with baseball.”
That defensive toughness again translated well to the basketball floor as Whalin established himself as one of the best defenders in the region.
Once the playoff rolled around, he helped the Tigers to their first playoff win in 15 years, a 77-51 victory over Reed, a romp over defending state champ Reno in which Douglas opened with a 26-0 lead, and the school’s first-ever appearance in a Northern 4A Regional title game.
“That Reed game was pretty much a copy of the playoffs my sophomore year,” Whalin said. “When I was a sophomore, I rolled my ankle in the week leading up to the game. This year, I rolled my ankle again and it seemed like a bad omen.
“We expected to do what we did against Reed, but nobody expected what we did against Reno. That was crazy.”
He once again anchored the lineup in baseball, hitting 10 doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBIs and putting together a 5-2 record with 37 strikeouts in nine starts on his way to first-team all-league honors.
The team won its second league title in three years and advanced to the Northern 4A Regional championship game as well.
Through it all, he carried a 3.3 GPA and participated in the Block D Athletic Association at the school.
Now that it’s all over, Whalin will play for the Sierra Sundevils in Reno this summer to prepare for next year with WNCC and he’ll take a long-awaited break.
“I’ll actually get to take a couple vacations this summer,” Whalin said. “That will be nice.
“It will be easier next year, I think. Each sport takes up so much time in high school. It can really be draining.
“I can just spend some time working out and getting ready for the baseball season now.”
— Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.