February 5, 2022
ITHACA — The Ithaca College wrestling team has a rich tradition and is considered one of the most storied programs in Division III history.
The proof is in the pudding: three NCAA Division III Team Championships, 12 individual national champions, 83 All-Americans, and 12 top-five team finishes at the national tournament.
The list goes on and on.
Rokfin Wrestling recently recognized the Bombers’ success and named them the third-best Division III wrestling team over the past 10 years, putting them in elite company behind perennial powerhouses Wartburg and Augsburg.
The rankings were determined based off national medalists, which Ithaca has had 28 since 2012. The wrestlers specifically mentioned in the Rokfin Wrestling article included: Alex Gomez, Austin Whitney, Ben Brisman, Carlos Toribio, Derek Brenon, Ferdinand Mase, Jake Ashcraft, Jake O’Brien, James Kaishian, Jeremy Stierly, Jules Doliscar, Kevin Collins, Kristopher Schimek, Nicholas Sanko, Nick Velez, Ricardo Gomez, Sam Schneider and Seth Ecker.
Schimek is now the wrestling coach at Jamestown Community College.
Since the 2011-12 season, Ithaca has placed 28 grapplers on the national podium, including four NCAA champions. While new names cycle in and out of the wrestling room each year, the team’s success has not faltered one bit.
Head coach Marty Nichols, a Cassadaga Valley Central School graduate, is the mastermind behind this consistent pattern of achievement.
“They wrestle for each other and they wrestle for the guys who are here on our wall that have been here forever,” said Nichols. “There’s legacy and tradition, and they see that.”
Nichols is both a coach and a product of the program. Before entering the coaching world, he was a three-time Division III All-American for the Bombers between 1987-1990. With that being said, he understands the ingredients to the recipe of success on the big stage.
“It’s all about building and sticking with a routine and a winning pattern during the year,” said Nichols. “Small stuff like what you’re eating, what you do when you warm up, and all of the little nuances that go on … you have to have enough repetition to do it under stress.”
An integral part of Ithaca’s success throughout the past decade is former 125-pounder Ricardo Gomez. The 2013 NCAA champion has been an assistant coach for the past seven years. While in the shadows of Nichols and the great Dave Auble, he knows the Bomber wrestling system just as much as anyone.
“The building block to what makes us successful is the system” said Gomez. “It’s basically small components of how to strategically dismantle your opponent while going far beyond extra and just visualizing and doing the little things every day.”
Even with the decorated history behind them, the Bombers aren’t close to being finished. With March looming around the corner, Ithaca is poised to add more hardware to the trophy case and print more names on the prestigious All-American wall in the ensuing weeks.
Led by a veteran bunch and a head coach who has been at the helm for the past 26 seasons, the team is only five weeks away from making another run at capturing a national crown. If they manage to pull it off, it would be the program’s first national title since 1994.