Interview with Troy Nickerson, Head Coach at Northern Colorado

By G. Wyatt Schultz for The Predicament

Nickerson Portrait

Troy Nickerson started at Northern Colorado in the 2014-15 season, becoming the seventh head coach in the wrestling program's history.

In four years as head coach, Nickerson has qualified 20 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, and 20 placers at the Big 12 Championships.

Nickerson's ability build the program was again on display for the 2019-20 season, as five UNC wrestlers automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships. It was the most Nickerson has qualified since becoming head coach. Jacob Seely became a three-time qualifier and he was joined by Alan Clothier, qualifying for his second time after transferring to Greeley. Three Bears qualified for the first time, with two, true freshman in Andrew Alirez and Mosha Schwartz, along with redshirt junior Dalton Robertson. Under Nickerson's guidance, UNC had its best finish at the Southern Scuffle, finishing sixth as a team, with four wrestlers placing. The Bears had two Scuffle finalists for the first time in program history in Alirez and Robertson.

During the 2018-19 season, Chris Sandoval gave UNC the program's first win over a top seed at the Big 12 Championships. Sandoval qualified for the NCAA Championships to become the first freshman to appear at nationals since the program returned to Division I. Rico Montoya would qualify for his third straight NCAA's.

The 2017-18 season was another example of the growth the Northern Colorado wrestling program has experienced under Nickerson's guidance. UNC placed tied for 38th at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish since the program returned to the Division I ranks. Montoya, Keilan Torres, Dylan Gabel and Seely all qualified for the NCAA Championships, making it four Bear qualifiers for the second consecutive season.

UNC earned its first dual win over a traditional Big 12 conference team when it defeated Iowa State 22-20 in January of 2018. Nickerson arrived at UNC after being an assistant for the Cyclones, making the victory even more impactful.

Since the transition back to the Division I level in 2006, Nickerson has been the only head coach to advance three or more wrestlers to the second day of the NCAA Championships.

During the 2016-17 season, the Bears had their highest team finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational, with the team placing 14th. The tournament is regarded as one of the toughest competitions outside of the NCAA Championships.

Off the mat, Nickerson made academics an emphasis since he arrived in Greeley and student-athletes have bought into the philosophy. The team has earned 31 All-Big 12 Academic Team Members in the past four seasons. In the 2017-18 season, UNC made history in the classroom, ranking 15th in the National Wrestling Coaches Association with a 3.28 team GPA, the top performance in program history.

Rico Montoya was named the Big 12 Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2019, the first wrestler in program history to recieve the award. Montoya was also named to the Google Cloud CoSIDA Academic All-America At-Large first team.

In the Bear's first season in the Big XII Wrestling Conference, Nickerson led a team that qualified 10 individuals for the Big XII Championships in Kansas City, Missouri, saw a National Championship qualifier in Trent Noon and had six placed on the Big XII All-Academic team.

Nickerson took on his first head coaching stint after serving two seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa State under Kevin Jackson. During his two seasons with the Cyclones, Nickerson coached three NCAA All-Americans and ten NCAA qualifiers, along with bringing in 2 Top 10 recruiting classes. Nickerson also coached all his starters to a winning percentage of .500 and above in 2012-13.

The Cyclones finished in the top three of the Big 12 Tournament and in the top 12 of the NCAA Tournament during both of Nickerson's seasons with the program.

Prior to joining the Iowa State wrestling program, Nickerson served as co-head coach of the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club from 2011-2012 in Ithaca, N.Y. He was also the head coach of the FLWC college team during the 2010-2011 season.

Nickerson compiled a remarkable collegiate career with Cornell from 2006-10, being named an All-American each season. He won the 2009 NCAA Championship in the 125 pound weight class while becoming an NCAA finalist twice.

A product of Chenango Forks, N.Y., Nickerson was one of the most highly regarded prep wrestlers in the country coming out of high school. He won five New York high school state championships and six national high school championships.

Nickerson graduated from Cornell in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in biology & science with a minor in nutritional science.  He currently resides in Greeley with his wife, Allie and son Gavin.