After coming up short during last year’s finals with a second place finish, senior Nathan Pike won the first place title in the 133-pound championship this year — becoming NYU Wrestling’s first NCAA Division III National Champion in program history.
“First of all, it’s a huge honor,” Pike said. “It is something that not a lot of people do. There’s only 10 [winners] in Division III, 10 in Division II, and 10 in Division I, so it feels pretty special to be one of those 30 — not a lot of people get that experience.”
While Pike has been putting in countless hours of work to reach this point in his wrestling career, he described how he and the entire team are still in disbelief.
“It’s hard to explain — I was just feeling a lot of emotions then and I was just really happy,” Pike said. “I had all my teammates jumping off from the stands and getting in trouble with security for me, it was a good experience. I was happy to see my coaches really happy, because I know they wanted it just as much as I did. That felt pretty special. That moment itself, I will just never feel again.”
While his accomplishment was a win for NYU, Pike’s collegiate career did not begin in Manhattan. He spent one year at Mount San Antonio College in California before being recruited by the NYU coaching staff.
“I transferred because [Coach Corey Luce] recruited me out of nowhere when I was at my old college and I was at the state tournament,” Pike said. “He came to me after I won. He’s the reason I came here, he changed my life and I am grateful for that.”
NYU Wrestling Senior Assistant Coach Corey Luce has been a member of the staff for 11 seasons. Luce was proud of Pike’s victory, and commented on his stand-out work ethic.
“[Pike] is probably one of the most deserving kids I’ve ever coached, and it was great to see him win a national title at the end of his senior year,” Luce said. “It was tough watching him fall short his junior season. As soon as he got off the mat, his mindset last year was that he was going to come back his senior year and prepare for a national title. Anything less wasn’t acceptable.”
Pike’s teammates were also excited about his win. Junior and fellow California native Jacob Donato felt that Pike’s victory was well-deserved. He said the win is motivating the team for next year’s season.
“We both come from California, so our styles of wrestling are a little different from East Coast styles of wrestling so it was very enjoyable to compete and scramble with Pike over the years,” Donato said. “He’s a great kid on and off the mat, and his national title is well deserved. It makes my teammates and I very hungry for next year, and something tells me this is just the start of many more national titles to come for NYU Wrestling.”
Now that his wrestling career has come to a close, Pike plans to switch gears to planning for life post-graduation. While he will no longer be wrestling competitively, Pike offered a few words of advice to those pursuing the challenging goal of a national title.
“You shouldn’t burn yourself out,” Pike said. “That happens a lot with people, where they take it too seriously and then it’s not fun anymore. They stress out over [it] too much. I think you need to find that healthy balance where you work hard, but at the same time you don’t do overkill kind of stuff. Don’t make reasons to hate the sport, because no one is good at what they hate.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 27 print edition. Email Maddie Howard at [email protected]