James Nicholson Featured in the Virginian Pilot

January 09, 2011
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Jan. 9, 2011

By Chris Carlson The Virginian-Pilot © January 8, 2011 HAMPTON

James Nicholson's words are as straight-forward as his approach.

"I'm back where I should be - dominating people," Nicholson said.

The ODU wrestler, the country's No. 4-ranked 125-pounder, won both of his matches at the Virginia Duals on Friday.

After earning All-America honors as a freshman, Nicholson slipped his sophomore year due to what he called a lapsed work ethic. His junior year was derailed by back and shoulder injuries.

"I'm looking to get back there," Nicholson said. "I don't care how I get a win, what I have to do, whether it's ugly or not, I'm going to do it."

ODU coach Steve Martin said Nicholson's skill set should offer the opportunity, as long as his body holds up.

Nicholson is a senior wrestling in college's lightest weight class, and additional muscle gained throughout his career has at times forced him to cut significant weight right before matches.

"That's the only thing that will keep him from a national championship," Martin said.

To fix the problem, Nicholson's sweet tooth has had to suffer. He's limited himself to water and denied his palate Gatorade and sweet tea for the first time.

"His technical ability, his mental ability and his physical skills are all at the top," Martin said.

Nicholson arrived at ODU well ahead in technique. He was raised in Des Moines, Iowa, where he won a state championship, and picked ODU ahead of major Big Ten and Big 12 programs.

"The one thing coach Martin told me was, if you want to be just another name on the wall, go to Iowa or Iowa State," Nicholson said. "If you want to be a part of something great and up-coming, come here. That will probably stick with me for the rest of my life."

Nicholson is trying to put his name ahead of all others.

He has a chance to set the school record for wins and could become the school's first national champion since 1974.

Nicholson also liked the area - warmth and water outweighed flat fields - and the fact that Martin and former assistant Lee Pritts were both lightweights, providing plenty of instruction.

He plans to stay in the area, at least temporarily, after he graduates and is aiming for a role in the wrestling community.

Nicholson, 16-0 this season, wins the Colonial Athletic Association's Wrestler of the Month so often - twice last year, twice this season - it ought to be named after him.

"It seems like he wins every time," Martin said.

But a national title has always been Nicholson's goal.

With that in mind, Nicholson pays little attention to milestone matches.

Despite the presence of five other top-20 wrestlers in his weight class at the Virginia Duals, Nicholson said he wasn't looking forward to any matches in particular - either this weekend or the rest of the season - including the match with No. 19 Tyler Cox of Wyoming to start today.

Little of it matters until Nicholson gets back where he started and, ideally, a few steps further.

"It's my last year, my last chance," Nicholson said. "My last shot at a national championship."

Chris Carlson, (757) 446-2367, chris.carlson@pilotonline.com