He Does It Again: Nick Piccininni, Four Time State Champion


Nick Piccininni celebrates his winning his fourth state title.

Ryan Fan, Sports Editor

On February 28, 2015, Nick Piccininni defeated Ben Lamantia of St. Anthony’s 3-1 to claim the 126-pound state championship to become four time wrestling state champion, becoming only the second wrestler in Long Island history to earn that title. For Nick, this match was a different feeling altogether, causing him some anxiety before his championship match.

“It was different because it was my last match, my last high school match, and it was also one of my most important matches. So, for it to be my last high school match and for me to be going for history to get my fourth state title, it put a lot of pressure on me. That’s why that was so special.”

But with this final victory, Nick highlights being a four time state champion as one of, if not the greatest accomplishments of his wrestling career. He considers one of his other greatest accomplishments his victory at the 2014 FloNationals (the most competitive high school wrestling competition in the country) against Luke Pletcher of Pennsylvania, which crowned him national champion in the 119 weight class.

This impressive and dominating victory over Lamantia recaps a truly phenomenal high school wrestling career, which Nick began precociously in the eighth grade and has succeeded at the top of the sport since. In the eighth grade, Nick took third place at the NY State Championships in the 98 pound weight class, an incredibly feat for such a young wrestler. Each year afterwards, he moved up a single weight class from 106 (freshman) to 113 (sophomore) to 120 (junior) to 126 (senior). But even with this ascension in weight classes, Nick’s success has stayed constant and controlling throughout his high school career, with state championships all four years and a national championship last year.

Whether in a dual meet or the championship meet at states, he goes in with one particular mindset: “my mindset is to always dominate a match: wrestle at my own pace and control the whole match.”

From the outcome of the past three seasons, it seemed Nick would be a very predictable winner in this year’s state championships. However, he suffered a severe ankle sprain in the middle of the season that left him in crutches and a boot for an extended amount of time. At League Championships, Nick forfeited at fourth place to end his 170 match win streak, but placed well enough to qualify for the county meet to avoid exacerbating his already too severe injury. However, he overcame his ankle sprain at County Championships, winning a county title and earning All-County honors for the fifth season in a row.

With regards to handling his injury, Nick said: “I was doing physical therapy every single day and I was icing it a crazy amount of time per day. I prepared by keeping my cardio up since I couldn’t wrestle because my ankle was killing me. I rode the bike for a long time and kept my mental game really strong to make sure I was staying positive.”

“When the injury happened, it was definitely a thought that my season was going to be done, but I went to the doctor and they told me it wasn’t broken, so I was motivated to do whatever it takes. It’s my senior year, and I didn’t care if it was broken or not, I was still going to wrestle.”

In the fall, Nick will attend college at Oklahoma State University, a school with one of the best wrestling programs in the nation. His wrestling goals are to be four time national champion, and academically, he is still undecided on a major but plans to graduate with a business degree.

“I picked Oklahoma State because it has one of the richest traditions in wrestling since the first NCAA tournament when they had the first national champions. They have the most national titles as a wrestling sports team,” said Piccininni. “Oklahoma State treats wrestling as one of its bigger sports so it gets a lot of fame and value so everyone appreciates wrestling there. I like the school, I like the campus, and the school fits me really well.”


Nick began wrestling at the very young age of seven while living in Hauppauge, with his father also a wrestler who encouraged him in his pursuit. As a young wrestling prodigy, he saw regularly watched high school wrestling matches and saw many high school wrestlers as his inspiration. But in 2008, he tuned in to the Olympics to watch American Henry Cejudo win the United States’s only wrestling gold medal in the games in the 55kg (121 lbs) weight class, and he saw him as his idol and inspiration.

“I fell in love with it since the first day. Wrestling’s the kind of sport where I just loved the grind and the hard work,” he said.

And his hard work and dedication is exemplified by the rigorous work he shows towards wrestling every day, which even he describes as tough. Even after practice on the school team that lasts until 6 p.m. on most days, Nick goes to Farmingdale for another practice with his strength trainer and personal trainer, which culminates in two workouts per day. This incredible commitment to his sport, as well as his aversion to junk food, help keep his weight at a manageable level. His magnificent success is mainly a product of this kind of eye-popping work ethic.

When I asked about who he attributes his success to, he responded in an extremely modest manner, refusing to name himself or even one individual coach that helped him succeed. Instead, he was grateful towards everyone who helped him in his career.

“Everyone’s helped me a lot. I can’t say one person has helped me more than the other. Some people are Gregor Gillepsie, Coach Desario and Coach Ferraro (good mental coaches), and my old Hauppauge team that I worked out with. There are too many to name.”

He also has a compassion rarely seen in other athletes. His charity “Pins for Purpose”, which asks spectators to donate money whenever Ward Melville pins in a match, has raised thousands of dollars in donation to breast cancer research. Every match, he wears a signature pink sock for his mother, a breast cancer survivor.

Even with his local celebrity status, with a Seport Deli sandwich named after him and his accomplishments, he remains an extremely humble individual. He agreed almost immediately to take time off his lunch period to be interviewed for our high school newspaper, and as I interviewed him, I was astounded by how polite and patient of a person he is. When questioned about his modesty, he responded:

“It’s just how I was raised. My parents raised me the right way. Before wrestling, I was never the kid to take the spotlight. I didn’t really like it, and initially it actually made me uncomfortable, but I’ve learned to live with it. But my parents raised me not to be cocky, but to be humble and confident, and they raised me like that and that’s just the way I am.”

And that grounded attitude is rarely what you’d expect from a person likely to be in the Olympics one day.