Nick Gwiazdowski was back in a Capital Region wrestling room Thursday for the first time since winning an NCAA championship in March.
Surrounded by red mats and wall pads, the same colors he sees every day on the North Carolina State campus, Section II’s first NCAA Division I wrestling champion was giving a clinic for the Journeymen Wrestling Club at Niskayuna High School.
The two-time state champion from Delanson is getting back into the training regimen that has earned him two All-American finishes in as many NCAA tournaments.
“Two weeks,” he said of the length of time he gave himself to relax after going 5-0 at the NCAAs, capped by a 4-2 win over two-time champ Tony Nelson of Minnesota in the 285-pound finals. “It was too long. I missed the weights. I was weak. I could still wrestle, but I was sore.”
He let his accomplishment sink in before getting back into his routine.
“I looked at the trophy every day,” he said. “I mentally relaxed. It was very enjoyable.”
Since the end of his redshirt sophomore season, a number of postseason honors have come Gwiazdowski’s way.
He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestler of the Year after a 42-2 season. The 42 wins established a school record, and led all of the qualifiers for the DI championships.
Gwiazdowski finished sixth in the Division I Most Dominant Wrestler rankings, determined by calculating points awarded per match (ranging from three to six, based on the type of win) and dividing the total by matches wrestled. He was the lone among the top 10, and one of two who competed at 184 pounds or more.
Gwiazdowski won his last 20 matches of the season. Eleven of his final matches were against ranked opponents. He went 20-0 in duals, and was 13-2 against ranked opponents for the season.
He went into his second NCAA tourney as the second seed, after placing eighth as a true freshman in 2012 for Binghamton.
Following that season, Gwiazdowski transferred to N.C. State when Bearcats coach and Niskayuna grad Pat Popolizio took the head coaching job in Raleigh, N.C.
He put his redshirt season to good use, going 20-1 with three championships and a third-place finish in four tournaments, losing only to Nelson in the semis of the Southern Scuffle.
He also won the National Collegiate Open.
Gwiazdowski followed that with an offseason that included a seventh-place finish at the Senior Nationals, and a third-place showing in the challenge tournament at the World Team Trials, beating Nelson twice.
Getting to Nelson was part of the preparation for this year’s NCAAs.
“We put together a good three-day plan. The coaches prepared me, and I wrestled my best those three days,” Gwiazdowski said.
Gwiazdowski’s next competition will come at the end of this month.
“I’m going to go to Ohio for 10 days and train with the guys at the Ohio Regional Training Center, then go to the World Team Trials,” he said.
The opportunity to become a three-time NCAA champ now becomes the motivation for Gwiazdowski, 72-11 in his college career.
“The thing now is to win two more,” he said. “You win one, you want to win two, then three. If you don’t, you’ve gotten worse.
“There’s a target on my back, and I’ve got to defend it. Once you’ve gotten that great feeling, you want to get it again.”