Triggas looks to dominate on the mat, break pin record at Ohio State
When Nikko Triggas pinned Pittsburgh's Godwin Nyama late in the first period of last Sunday's Ohio State dual win against the Panthers, it marked the 39th time Triggas had ended a collegiate match by pin. Twelve more and he will be the all-time leader at Ohio State.
Buckeye assistant coach Lou Roselli called it the knockout punch.
"That's huge in a dual meet, that six points," Roselli said. "Nikko has always had that."
A four-year starter at Campolindo High, Triggas recorded 141 pins. His propensity to end matches by fall has continued at the collegiate level. Twenty-nine of his 53 wins during his sophomore and junior campaigns ended with a pin. Three of his six wins this season have ended the same way.
The Buckeye record book shows Don Moxley (1983-85) at the top with 50 career pins. Heading into this weekend's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Triggas, a Buckeyes' 125-pounder, sits in fifth, four behind J.D. Bergman and six behind Mitch Clark. Ed Potokar is second on the list.
The journey to the top of that list has been anything but orthodox. Triggas was almost done with wrestling long before he left his native California.
"I didn't do very well in freestyle at a Regional Schoolboy tournament and my dad told me I had better do good in Greco or that might be the end of it," Triggas said. "That's when Greco exploded for me."
Twice he won Cadet Greco-Roman national titles in Fargo, N.D. He added a Junior National Championship in 2007 along with a gold medal at the Junior Pan American Championships.
After his freshman season at Ohio State in 2007-08, a season in which he went 19-17 and qualified for the NCAA Championships, Triggas won gold medals in freestyle and Greco at the Junior Pan American Championships during the summer.
As a sophomore, Triggas won 22 matches and again qualified for the NCAA Championships. In 2009-10, he completed a 31-win, 15-pin season with an eighth place finish at the NCAA Championships. It's been a lot Greco since then.
"The ultimate goal for me is to make the 2016 Olympic team," said Triggas. "Four, seven, 15 years ... I don't know how much longer I am going to wrestle. When I got hurt in 2011 and wasn't able to wrestle I pretty much went crazy, didn't really know what to do. I guess it's close to an addiction."
Triggas took a redshirt season in 2010-11 and followed that up with an Olympic redshirt in 2011-12. He competed at the 2011 U.S. Team Trials and was fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. After two years of Greco training, getting back into folkstyle mode hasn't been easy.
"I guess Greco is a bit counterintuitive in regards to college," Triggas said. "You can't attack the legs and everything is upper-body. Most guys do freestyle but I fell in love with [Greco].
"Just getting back into the right frame of mind, the right stance is where I had to start."
Roselli, a member of the U.S. Olympic freestyle squad in 1996, is helping with that transition.
"[Triggas] is a guy that likes all styles of wrestling," Roselli said. "He has a passion for the sport and is going to be wrestling a lot longer than just college. He has a goal of being an Olympic athlete in 2016 or 2020.
"Right now he is training hard. It's a week-to-week process. There are some things he is still working on ... his takedowns and getting taken down ... but he will iron all that out."
At the season-opening Michigan State Open on Nov. 11, Triggas went 4-2, dropping a pair of bouts to Michigan's Connor Youtsey. On Nov. 16, Virginia Tech All-American Jarrod Garnett beat Triggas 10-2. The pin over Nyama put the Buckeye lightweight at 6-3 for the season.
"I know I have some work to do on my feet," Triggas said. "But I really expect to be at the top of the podium at the end of the year. Being away from this environment the last two years made me realize how much I love the team environment. We have a really good team this year, a team that can win the team title, and I want to be a part of that."
With the rugged Big Ten schedule fast approaching there is little time for reintegration. A trip to Iowa City and a meeting with two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough is just around the corner on Jan. 4. Seven of the top twenty 125-pounders, including the top three, suit up for Big Ten schools. The Nov. 27 Amateur Wrestling News Rankings show Triggas at No. 15 which is sixth among conference 125-pounders.
"There are no easy matches in the Big Ten," Triggas said. "It's kind of a sink or swim kind of thing."
Doing the math most might think Triggas is approaching 30. A sixth year of college. Two redshirt seasons.
"It's kind of funny; whenever someone needs to know something about Ohio State they always say 'ask Nikko, he's been here for six years,'" Triggas said. "But I didn't turn 18 until two weeks before I got [to Ohio State] so I'm not as old as everybody thinks I am. I do feel different this year, though."
After college, Greco will be who Triggas is.
"I will not be doing the military thing," he said. "Most of the top Greco guys are in the Army program, but I see myself in the barracks at Colorado Springs [and not at Fort Carson with the World Class Athlete Program]."
But for now, Triggas has his sights set on a certain list and Des Moines.