Nick Suriano becomes the first ever NCAA champion for Rutgers Wrestling!
The phrase “health is wealth” is of special importance to Nick Suriano. Why you ask? Because each of the last two times Nick Suriano came to the national tournament, he was unable to give his best performance, or perform at all for that matter, due to injury and sickness.
In Suriano’s first trip to the NCAA tournament, when he was still at Penn State University, Suriano could not perform due to a broken ankle. The following season, he competed, in fact he faired quite well. Nick Suriano made it to the NCAA finals, making him the first ever national finalist for Rutgers University.
Suriano was defeated by Iowa’s Spencer Lee, leaving him shy of his national championship goals. For most, it seemed like a valiant effort from Nick, but for Suriano, he knew that he was not wrestling at his highest level. What he had accomplished was not the fully-prepared Nick Suriano he was used to being.
Suriano spent the weeks leading up to the national tournament battling a staph infection on his knee. The infection did not allow Suriano to train at max effort, and sometimes, prevented him from practicing at all. The Bergen Catholic product knew in the back of his mind that if he could just have a healthy tournament, he could be standing at the top of the podium.
This time around, things were much different for the returning national runner-up. Nick Suriano came into the national tournament firing on all cylinders, and putting on his best performances to date. Suriano in his first three wins out-scored his opponents 27 – 5, including a pinfall over returning All-American, Ethan Lizak.
The three consecutive wins paired Suriano up with Michigan’s Stevan Micic in the semi-final round of the 133 – lb bracket. In their previous match, Micic was the victor, despite Suriano being the aggressor throughout the entire match. Suriano had six leg attempt attacks to Micic’s one, but the lone shot Micic took he was able to capitalize on.
This time around, Suriano made sure that his shots were completed to takedowns, as he spiked Micic into the mat on a double leg. The takedown was the main factor in a 4 – 1 winning effort by Suriano. Not only did this win put Suriano into the national finals, it presented him with the opportunity of revenge, once again.
Coming from the opposite side of the bracket was Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix. Fix and Suriano met in what was called the “biggest match in New Jersey wrestling history”, but the hype of the match far exceeded the event itself.
Both Suriano and Fix took little risk, leaving a very conservative, and somewhat boring match for fans. That, mixed in with over fifteen minutes of replay reviews, sucked all of the energy out of the RAC that Sunday afternoon. But fans were most irate when the already disappointing match was decided on a hands-to-the-face call in sudden victory overtime against Suriano. Fix walked away the winner by a score of 3 – 2.
This time, Suriano took a much different approach to attacking Fix
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When the clock struck zero, the scoreboard had read 4-2 in favor of Suriano. The match was not much different from the first time around. Suriano and Fix gave minimal shot attempts, although Surianopushed forward much more. Like the last time, the two did not score a single takedown, and went to overtime.
After a scoreless sudden victory period, and trading escapes in the tiebreaker, the Suriano and Fix went to sudden victory two. This was the exact period where the match was decided the previous time. However, unlike the anticlimactic finish fans saw previously, this had a different ending.
Daton Fix attempted a slide by on Suriano, but Surianocountered into his own leg attack. Suriano dove to the left ankle, gathered the right leg, and put Fix to his rear end, securing both the takedown and the national title.
Suriano threw his hands to the sky, as head coach Scott Goodale ran to the edge of the circle to point at Suriano. The signs of relief and gratitude were plastered on both of their faces, not only did Nick Suriano just become a national champion, he became the first ever for Rutgers University.
After what had felt like an eternity of not getting a fair crack at the national title, Suriano was able to prove that, when healthy, he is the best wrestler in the country. There was no more “what if’s”, no more excuses. Nick Suriano was finally able to walk away with the coveted national championship trophy.
"I want to thank my coaches, Rutgers, my mom, dad, my brother, my support team. I thought about all my family behind the scenes that had my back. We made history. I wasn't giving it to him today. He got calls in the beginning of the match. I took him down fair and square," Suriano told ESPN in a mat-side interview after the win.
"I kept pressing him. I could see it in his eyes. I saw him quit. God bless. Blissful. I've been through a lot. I came for gold and I got it. I'm blessed. Its' everything I dreamed of. It's what I made the decision (to transfer)."