Slowing Nick Piccininni down has proven to be a nearly impossible task for opposing wrestlers, especially in his string of undefeated tournaments over the past month.
In fact, there’s only thing that has come close to stopping him lately — sleep.
“At the Iron Horse, I had the wrong bout number for my next match,” he said. “I thought I had time so I took a nap. All of a sudden, I had this gut instinct and woke up, I don’t know why. I looked up and saw that my match was up and I just ran over and wrestled. I had no time to warm up or anything. I would have wrestled much better if I was more ready.”
He was ready enough to earn a 1-0 victory over Bound Brook’s Craig DeLaCruz, who took fourth in New Jersey in 2012 and who was the champion of his bracket at the Journeymen Classic the previous week.
It was a rare close match for Piccininni. In his 45-0 state championship campaign as a freshman, he won all but six matches by bonus points. More recently, he won the Super 32 Qualifier at 113 pounds in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania by a combined score of 46-3 and followed it up with a championship at the Journeymen Classic where his closest match was a 7-0 victory over New Jersey medalist Joe Trovato. His latest triumph was a title at the Iron Horse (despite his nap).
He even went unbeaten at the Waterway Duals, including a victory over Pennsylvania state placer Zack Fuentes – while wrestling up a weight at 122 pounds.
So, what is Nick Piccininni hoping to conquer next?
For one thing, a national title.
While Piccininni specifically mentioned wanting to win the FloNationals championship next spring, he has another opportunity to make his mark at a big event this weekend when he travels to North Carolina for the Super 32 Challenge. He said he competed at the tournament as an eighth grader but didn’t place.
However, he has made improvements since then, working with Olympian Brandon Escobar, who he calls a “brother figure who has grown closer and closer to me”, as well as coaches such as the Patrovich brothers, Chris Messina, Kurt Ferrara and Bill DeSario. He also has spent significant time lifting and working with Eastport South Manor junior Travis Passaro.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and so many people have helped me,” he said. “I’m grateful for what I have and the people around me. If not for my family and my coaches, I wouldn’t be as successful.”
His efforts are not only aimed toward showcasing himself against the nation’s best at the Super 32, but also at the Times Union Center in February on the biggest weekend of the high school season. Before his state championship in 2012, he was third as an eighth grader. In that tournament, Piccininni suffered a 6-4 loss in Albany in the semifinals to Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks, who went on to win the first of his two state crowns. It’s a match the Suffolk County wrestler hasn’t forgotten.
“I definitely would like a rematch,” Piccininni said. “I would like to get revenge. I was an inexperienced eighth grader in my first time at states. He had been there before. Now I have a lot more experience and I have much better technique and strength than I did. I remember that match well.”
He remembers all of his varsity losses well, but that isn’t that difficult given how few there have been in his 95-3 career. However, not included in that record is the “loss” he recalls that occurred when he never even got to step on the mat, all the way back in 2010.
“My school doesn’t allow seventh graders to wrestle on varsity,” he said. “But I went through the Board of Education and got permission to wrestle in tournaments. I originally was allowed to wrestle at Leagues, but the day before Leagues they said I couldn’t go. It was hard to watch. The kid who won, I thought I could have beaten him. It definitely put a fire underneath me.”
That fire helped lead him to the aforementioned third place finish in New York State the following year and his continued success since then. It even has catapulted him into the national rankings – for a while at least.
“I think I was in the national rankings recently for about a day,” he said. “The next time I looked, I was out. I’ve learned not to worry about them. They’re just one person’s perspective. But I still look at them; everyone does. I just need to wrestle and be myself.”
The way he’s been wrestling, it’s hard to believe his name will be left out of the national rankings for long.