WRESTLING: Nicholson pacing Old Dominion

January 30, 2009
By ODU Athletics

Jan. 30, 2009

For James Nicholson, it was a case of "Go east, young man."

Nicholson, Old Dominion's 125-pounder, hails from Des Moines, Iowa, and has been a stalwart for two years for the Monarchs. Last season, he finished eighth in the NCAA Championships. This season, he's been at least that good, if not better. He's ranked in the top eight in most polls.

Nicholson, 35-10 a year ago as a redshirt freshman, is 27-2 this season. Both losses are to Scotti Sentes of Central Michigan. Nicholson has also beaten Sentes once.

Nicholson came to Norfolk after a state championship year at Roosevelt High in Des Moines, not one of the Iowa powers.

Nicholson was attracted to Old Dominion by the excellence of the lightweight coaches. At that time, Lee Pritts (former All-American at Eastern Michigan) and head coach Steve Martin were there.

"I got a lot a personalized training with them and it's really benefited me," he said.

Nicholson said he wasn't looked at heavily by Iowa State and Iowa.

"I would have to have been a walk-on. That was kind of a smack in the face because I knew I was tough," he said. "One of the reasons I came was the opportunity to be part of building a program. Martin said to me `We are going to do great stuff. If you want to be a name on the wall, go to Iowa.'"

It's obvious the program is on the rise. Recently, the Monarchs handed Hofstra its first Colonial Athletic Association dual meet loss after 63 straight wins. The Monarchs are 13-5 after beating Bucknell in Lewis-burg last Sunday. The dual schedule includes the Virginia Duals, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Purdue.

And Martin, one of the sons of the late fabled high school coach Billy Martin, is not staying home when it comes to recruiting. In addition to Nicholson, Martin has wrestlers from Alaska, Kansas, Wisconsin and Illinois as starters.

The Monarchs have already signed several blue-chippers for the coming year. They are Jack Burbank, from Cox High in the Norfolk area; Eric Dun-nett, a heavyweight from Eastern Regional High in Vorhees, N.J.; Justin LaValle, a multiple state champion from

Burnsville, Minn.; Nicholson's brother, John, who projects at 157 pounds; and Joey Sheridan, a two-time Oklahoma champion from Tulsa. Sheridan is projected at 174 and LaValle will likely go at 133.

Of Martin, James Nicholson said: "He brings them in from all over. He doesn't care where you're from or what language you speak, he'll get you."

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