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Nichols Continues To Add To His Legacy

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in The Post-Journal in April 2018 after Cassadaga Valley Central School graduate and Ithaca College wrestling coach Marty Nichols was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Most Outstanding Coach of the Year. In light of his most recent honor (see related story), it was deemed appropriate to run the story again as part of the newspaper’s “Remember When?” series.

By Scott Kindberg

skindberg@post-journal.com

It’s pretty cool to be Marty Nichols these days.

Actually, it’s VERY cool.

Consider what has happened to the Ithaca College wrestling coach in a season that just wrapped up last month:

¯ Voted the 2018 National Wrestling Coaches Association Most Outstanding Coach of the Year. He earned the same honor in 2011.

¯ Inducted into the NWCA Division III Hall of Fame.

¯ Selected the Mideast Region Coach of the Year for the third time in his 22-year tenure at Ithaca.

¯ Led the Bombers to a 14-2 record in dual meets, losing just once to Division III competition, marking the 10th time that the program had amassed 12-plus dual-meet wins in a season under Nichols.

¯ Guided Ithaca to a third-place finish at the New York State Intercollegiate Championships, ranking as the program’s highest-ever finish in the interdivisional state competition.

¯ Led the program to its fifth consecutive Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference team title, while the Bombers crowned four individual champions.

¯ And, finally, saw his team once again rank within the top Division III programs in terms of cumulative grade-point average, posting a 3.4969 and having five wrestlers named to the NWCA Division III All-Academic Team.

Did you catch your breath yet?

That’s only a portion of Nichols’ sizeable wrestling resume that dates to the 1970s, while growing up on his parents’ dairy farm in Centralia and ultimately graduating from Cassadaga Valley Central School in 1986.

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David Nichols never pushed his only son into wrestling. An accomplished performer on the mat in his day, David introduced Marty to the sport, but left the latter to decide if he wanted to pursue it in earnest.

So somewhere around the age of 9, Marty attended a Kids Wrestling match with his father during which Coach Cliff Blom asked the youngster if he wanted to be part of the Cassadaga team and if he wanted to join them at a tournament the following weekend.

“I looked at my dad,” Marty recalled during a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon from Ithaca, “and he said, ‘If you want to go, you can. If not, don’t worry about it.'”

Let’s just say that Marty, who just turned 50, made the right decision.

Days later, he joined Blom and the team for a tournament at Canisius College. To say it went well for the newcomer would be an understatement.

“I called my dad when we got back to come pick me up, and he asked how I did,” Marty recalled. “I told him I won and he said, “No, how did you do?’

“I think he was a little shocked.”

It’s been that “shock-the-world” mentality ever since.

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John Ognibene’s history with Cassadaga Valley goes back decades. A retired teacher and a junior varsity wrestling coach when Marty was a student/athlete there, Ognibene saw first-hand the kind of potential that the teenager had when they squared off during practice.

“He was tough as nails,” Ognibene said recently. ” … He was just a hard-nosed kid, who was willing to try anything.”

By the time Marty was a senior in 1986, he finished fifth at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet, losing to the eventual champion in the semifinals. Section VI had an outstanding team that season, including Olean’s Jeff Prescott (a former two-time NCAA Division I champion at Penn State) and Roy-Hart’s Lou Rosselli (a former Edinboro University standout, who is now the coach at University of Oklahoma).

Upon graduating from Cassadaga Valley, Marty took his talents to Ithaca College where he qualified for nationals all four years, winning the first of four 150-pound regional titles in 1987. Two years later, he posted 32 wins and a fifth-place finish at nationals where the Bombers won their first NCAA title. In his senior year, Nichols posted another 32-win season, highlighted by a second-place finish at nationals when Ithaca defended its team title.

Before arriving at his alma mater as a coach, Marty was an assistant at Division I Cornell University where the Big Red won the Ivy League championship both seasons. After coaching two years at Ithaca High School, Marty returned to Ithaca College as an assistant coach for the 1994-95 season. He took charge of the program in 1996 where he has amassed a 251-89-1 career dual-meet record. Marty is also Ithaca’s all-time winningest coach and is the only head coach in program history to surpass 200 career victories. Entering this year’s NCAA Championships, Nichols had coached 53 All-Americans, including six national champions and nine runners-up.

“I was blown away (by Marty’s accomplishments),” Ognibene said. “He was a three-time All-American himself, but what he’s doing now as a coach (is amazing). He’s blowing it out of the water.”

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One of many photos of Marty that appear on the Ithaca College website is the one of him with his wife Stacy and their daughters, Sophia and Ana; his parents, Dave and Donna; and his mother-in-law, Paulette Manos.

Sophia and Ana are holding plaques that were awarded to their dad last month in Cleveland, the site of the NCAA wrestling championships.

Asked if he was given an opportunity to speak upon receiving the hardware, Marty admitted that he “said a couple words.”

Asked for a brief rundown of his comments, he offered this:

“I just thanked all the coaches for voting for me and I just kind of explained how it takes a village to be successful at anything,” he said. ” … Nobody can do it by themselves.”

I’ll give him that, but at some point the best separate themselves into a league of their own.

That is the rarified air where Marty now resides.

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