Nichols was raised near Lake Austin and attended Casis Elementary School. Nichols began competitive water skiing from the age of two. He represented the United States junior water ski team in the Pan-American Championships in 1997, and was also on the United States junior Olympic water skiing team. [when?] At age thirteen, he was ranked third in the world. Nichols had intended to become a professional water skier until he injured his shoulder in Florida, and was forced to give up the sport. While at McCallum High School in Austin, he played basketball but was "absolutely awful". Nichols' interest in acting was sparked when he was fifteen and began to take acting lessons. He moved to Los Angeles after high school.
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