In honor of Father’s Day, we will bring a few stories about wrestling fathers and sons in New York. The first is about Nick Hall Sr. and his son Nicky Hall.
On his way to the state finals in 2012, Longwood junior Nicky Hall was very stingy defensively, giving up more than two points in only four of his 38 bouts. That wasn’t an accident.
“From an early age I tried to teach my son the mentality I had in wrestling, which was not to get scored on,” said Nick Hall Sr., who was an All-American heavyweight in college. “I used to tell him I’d rather he win 1-0 than 7-2 because it’s better not to give up points. I’d say [Nicky] and I are very similar in style. We aren’t flashy wrestlers but we take a lot of pride in being hard to score on and just getting the job done.”
That includes getting the job done in the postseason, as both earned two Sectional crowns for the Lions – the first father-son combination to achieve that feat in Suffolk County.
For Nicky, who has competed for the varsity squad since seventh grade, it wasn’t hard to find the motivation to stand on top of the podium for Longwood.
“There were huge expectations for me from the beginning,” he said. “My father’s name is on the wall in the wrestling room. There’s a picture of him right outside the window. I stared at those things every day. It was almost haunting me everywhere I looked. I wanted people to think of both of us when they hear Nick Hall. I wanted to make a name for myself, not just live in his shadow.”
His performance on the mat has achieved that, including fourth and second place medals at the New York state tournament the past two campaigns.
Success is nothing new for Nicky – he has been winning since he began taking the sport seriously around 10 years old. His exposure to wrestling goes back further, however, to the time he attended some of his father’s practices and matches at Old Dominion. That early involvement was significant to Nick Sr.
“Wrestling helped me get into college and get my college degree,” Nick Sr. said. “Wrestling builds character and sets you up to be successful later in life. They say that once you’ve wrestled, everything in life is easy. I really believe that. It’s so near and dear to my heart that it was important for me to introduce him to wresting when he was young.”
From the start, Nicky said his father was there to coach him and help him in his development. He considers himself lucky to have had his father’s support and guidance in the room although it occasionally brought about some painful lessons.
“One time I asked him to wrestle me, but about 10 minutes later I was wondering what I was thinking,” Nicky said. “He has a lot of weight on me and is too strong; too tough. My chin was bleeding and so was my nose and lip. It was definitely a one-sided battle.”
Nick Sr. had a lot of one-sided battles in high school, where he finished his career at Longwood as a state champion at 215 pounds. He picked up where he left off in college, earning a 115-18-3 record and a pair of CAA crowns in addition to All-American honors as a junior.
In his final campaign, he was among the contenders for an NCAA championship. However, at the tournament, he ruptured the fifth and sixth discs in his spine, which not only forced him to default from nationals but also put an end to his wrestling career.
“That injury changed my whole path,” Nick Sr. said. “I was planning on winning the national title that year. Then I planned to be a graduate assistant coach, getting my graduate degree and becoming a psychologist. But I didn’t have the opportunity to do that because of my injury.”
The turn of events shaped his thoughts for his son’s future.
“I’ve always told Nicky that there’s no professional wrestling,” he said. “I want him to excel in wrestling because it’s something he loves to do, but much more important is to use wrestling as a tool to go to a college that will allow him to be the most productive person he can be. Nicky has always embraced academics in a way that I didn’t until I got to college. My best advice to him is to seek an Ivy League University where he can come out with a degree that sets him up for life.”
The message is certainly one Nicky has taken to heart.
“My father always reminds me to never sell myself short – in wrestling, at school, in any situation,” Nicky said. “I have a stack of college letters in my room – more than 25. He reminds me not to be satisfied, to know the kind of school I want to attend and not settle for anything less.”
When he does move away, whether it’s for college or for a possible prep school next year, both Nick Sr. and Nicky talk about the adjustments they’ll have to make. But for now, they appreciate the time they have.
“We do everything together,” Nicky said. “Hanging around the house, taking care of the yard, hanging out with my little brothers (Rocco, Jake and Tyler). We sometimes sit and watch college wrestling on TV, rewind it and talk about what the guys did on the mat. He’s my go-to person to hang out with.”
“[Nicky] has far exceeded what I ever expected to have in a child,” Nick Sr. added. “He’s a great role model to his brothers and his teammates. He sets the bar very high academically and athletically. I can honestly say I’m honored and proud to have him as my child. I didn’t grow up with a father, so it makes it that much more important for me to give him what I never had. When his birthday comes around, I’m reading cards and crying because he’s the best kid you could have.”
In addition to birthdays, the Halls look forward to Father’s Day, an occasion that Nick Sr. said his son “goes all out” to celebrate.
“He’s very special to me because he’s done so much for me and my family,” Nicky said. “I really appreciate him. When it comes to Father’s Day, I do it right because he deserves it.”
Nick Hall Sr. was a two-time CAA Wrestler of the Year, who ranks fourth on the Old Dominion wins list and is tied for first in career pins.
Nicky Hall was a Section XI champion in 2011 and 2012 and the Division I State runner up at 152 pounds this season.