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Rutgers University Wrestler, Nick Suriano, on Persistence to Become a Champion

Nick Suriano is from Paramus, NJ, and attended Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, NJ. Nick produced one of the greatest high school wrestling careers of all time. He captured four NJSIAA State Championships and finished with a perfect record of 159-0. He is the only wrestler in New Jersey to match his four state individual titles with four state team titles. 

Nick went on to wrestle for Penn State as a freshman. He was seeded third as an NCAA finalist but was unable to compete due to an injury. 

Related school rating: Penn State

Nick transferred to Rutgers as a sophomore and immediately impacted the Scarlet Knights team. He was a 2018 National finalist and became the highest finisher and first national finalist in program history, as well as earning All-American status. 

Related school rating: Rutgers University

As a junior, Nick finished the season with 29 victories en route to the 2019 national title. He is the first national champion in Rutgers’s history. On top of that, Nick claimed All-American status for 2018 and 2019. Nick then decided to redshirt for the 2019-20 season and had one goal in mind: the Olympics. 

Accolades: 

  • 2019 NCAA Champion 
  • 2018-19: Two-time national finalist 
  • 2018-19: Two-time All-American 
  • First national champion and first finalist in Rutgers program history
  • In 2019 Big Ten Champion 
  • Junior season record: 29-3
  • Sophomore season record: 25-1 
  • 2018 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Champion 
  • 20182019: Two-time Big Ten Championships Placewinner 
  • 2017 Midlands Champion
  • 2017-19: Three-time national qualifier 
  • First wrestler in program history to secure No. 1 overall ranking in individual weight class

What is the best advice that Coach Goodale has given to you or your team as a whole? 
I have a lot of valuable lessons that I have learned, but the one that really sticks to me is when coach Goodale would tell the team and me to “Lock-In.” He would almost yell it, and it would come on the buildup to big matches. “Lock-in, boys!” It’s the simplicity of that bold statement that resonates with me to this day. 

Related: Quinnipiac Athletes Share Coach Advice on Being Confident and Controlling the Game

Why Rutgers? What were the deciding factors?
I left Penn State to represent Rutgers as the first national champion in Rutgers University’s school history. I stuck with my belief in my abilities and what the university had to offer. 

When do you think high school athletes should start the recruiting process for wrestling?  
I think a serious wrestler who has high goals to be a state and future D1 NCAA Champion needs to begin thinking as early as a freshman in high school and the latest by the end of the sophomore season. The more you target your focus on your goals, the more you will act accordingly to achieve them and make them your reality. 

What are the 3 essential ingredients that recruits will need to be a great wrestler at the DI level? 
Commitment, Persistence, and a burning desire to be a champion.

Can you offer a do and don’t for recruits who will go on official visits to your school? 
DO: Explore the campus, explore and get to know the people, be aware of past performances and results of the team, and begin to form allies.

DON’T: Get swayed and pressured into the party scene, or make a commitment without overly considering all of your options.

Related: Dos and Don’ts of Campus Overnight Visits

If you could go back in time, what would you change about your recruiting process? 
If I could go back in time, I’d reconsider the importance of having my family close to me along my journey to being an NCAA champion. To me, my family’s presence had motivated me to achieve my goals even more full-heartedly

What are two tips that you can offer to a freshman athlete to work on being a successful competitor and making an immediate impact?
I think using the insecurity and fears that come with being a freshman, surrounded by older and more accomplished teammates and competitors, is the fire needed to match and soon surpass them. Having goals written down daily and a ferocious attitude will help you get what you want, putting in the work and effort, and a “putting it all on the line” mentality will separate you from the rest.

What are two tips on how a wrestling athlete can stay healthy throughout the season? 
As a college wrestler, it’s super important to focus on REST. Recovering between workouts and managing your time properly with academic work was one of the biggest adjustments to make. With morning workouts, afternoon workouts, school work, and weight cutting sessions, SLEEP and rest are crucial.

Another way to stay healthy is to properly strength train and mix in grounding exercises like yoga, deep breathing, meditation, & biomechanics focus on body deficiency. 

Related: Importance of Sleep as an Athlete

How did you manage a rigorous academic schedule while competing at a high level?
I made sure to stay and focused on my goals and my main reasons for why I was at school. I also used the motivation from my goals off the mat as leverage to succeed on the mat. 

If athletes are having difficulty, does Rutgers have the resources to help? 
Yes, Rutgers offers tutoring and other academic guidance through advisors. 

Related: How to Reach out to Your Coach When You’re Struggling

Any advice for high school athletes as far as their GPA is concerned what GPA/ACT should they shoot for if they want to wrestle for Rudgers? 
Although academic requirements differ based on the university and the athlete’s athletic ability, I say a 3.0 is aiming in the right direction!

How do you feel about this NCAA rule change?

The reclassification of a call that will better protect wrestlers during their matches. “Hands to the face” used to be classified as an unnecessary roughness violation. This is in place to protect wrestlers from injury. According to the NCAA, unnecessary roughness involves physical acts that occur during a match. It includes any act that exceeds normal aggressiveness.

Personally, I believe the hands to face rule must be reconsidered! It has become a tactic referees are using as leverage to sway an even match up. Unless the contact is truly flagrant and visibly uncalled for, I think it should be removed. Since I was 7 years old, I mostly believe this because using “hands to the face” was a tactic to set up other techniques, strategies, and takedowns. It’s like your jab in boxing.

Related: NCAA News and Policy

How did wrestling help shape you for your future
The mindset wrestling has helped shape for me has been used in all areas of my life. I think the principles of competing for what you want, being grateful for what you have, and never settling until it’s enough for me, are all principles I would not have without the sport of wrestling. 

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