Nick Marin is a dude that is very, very well liked in Southeast Iowa. I say this because his finals videos are definitely one of the most requested by fans, if not THE most. And after reading his responses, I can see why… I mean, hell… he’s a Nine Inch Nails fan! I love Nine Inch Nails. He was a bit older than me, but I do remember him fairly well. He was scrappy, technical when he needed to be and just tough as hell. I was floored when I found out that he started wrestling in 7th grade. Floored. A few weeks ago, I stated that Tanner Abbas May be the GOAT out of all wrestlers who started after 7th grade, for he placed at state 4 times, but Nick Marin has forced me to reconsider. He became a 3 time finalist and 2 time champion. That’s incredible. And for rowdy crew like West Liberty… West Liberty has been so consistent in terms of producing great wrestlers in every era. Mepo has had their run-ins with them when the rivalry between the two was heated, but that doesn’t mean for one second that I, for one don’t respect the hell out of them. If you don’t, you are either a tough person to please or just a hater. And one of their most beloved badasses that they’ve ever had is Nick Marin.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
After 7th grade football gained me a few new friends, a lot of those same kids were going out for wrestling so I thought it might be something to help me gain a few more. Riding a skateboard wasn’t gaining me any popularity so I thought maybe sports would
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My older brother Brian wrestled in junior high but never went out in high school. My mom is a Holladay from Wilton so a bunch of uncles wrestled but we weren’t a wrestling family (yet). My younger brother Josh qualified twice and wrestled at Coe but had a couple really bad concussions that kept him off the mat a lot in college. For some reason I always thought he might be a better coach than competitor and I think he’s proving me right as a coach at City High right now. My kindergartener Sam is just getting started and having fun so we’ve been easing him in to the game.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
First year as a chubby little 7th grader I went 5-10, second year as an 8th grader I went 20-10 but forgot how to run a front headlock at districts and missed qualifying. I think I was decent enough to get through that bracket that day but I wouldn’t have placed once I got there
What was your record in HS?
After wrestling JV my freshman year I started wrestling through the off season and finished 115-15 career varsity in high school
How did you place at state every year?
My sophomore year I lost the first wrestle-off to my main workout partner Brian Bothell at 103 and had to bump up to 112. I had a decent regular season so I never wrestled him off again. I took some beatings that year and somehow went from a 3rd seed at sectionals and turned it in to my first state title. I’m still not real sure how things kept going my way but I had a loaded weight class that literally 20 different wrestlers could have won and somehow that week was my time. My junior year I dropped back down to 103 and forgot how to run a front headlock again in the state finals and finished 2nd. My senior year I lost one regular season match to Josh Budke in OT and finished I think 37-1 with my 2nd state title at 112.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
My sophomore year I had Chase Zaputil and Doug Schwab ranked 1 and 2 all year and a ton of good guys all over the state. I thought if I wrestled well I may qualify but I was hoping to just get there and assumed I may not win a match if I did. I didn’t even win districts but somehow just kept putting it together in the post season and avenged some loses and beat some guys that would probably beat me 9/10 times. Everyone remarked how confident I looked out there no matter what was going on, but the reality of it was that I was just trying to find out how good I could be. It wasn’t confidence or determination, I was OK being a loser I just didn’t want to be a quitter. If I had lost to any of those guys I would have been fine with it because they were all good and I knew I was throwing everything I had at them.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Lucky? Trash? Unorthodox? I think a lot of people would describe it those ways lol. No really I had a lot of feet-to-back stuff and by the time I was a senior I was real good with pressures, so scoring big points on the mat was a trademark West Liberty thing and became a big part of my matches. We wanted every takedown to be for 5, wanted to be able to turn every wrestler, and wanted to get the fall every time we turned someone
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
The big ones were Corey and Justin Stanley, I went 2-2 against both of them. After losing a close one to him early in the year, Corey beat me so bad at conference our sophomore year people asked me all weekend if I was sick or something. I think it was 13-2 and I was 100% healthy, he was just that good and beat the piss out of me. I don’t think anyone ever handled me like that even in college. I learned so much about myself from watching the video of that match, I don’t think I would have did as good in Des Moines without it. I won the next two matches and he was waiting by the podium to be the first person to congratulate me after I won state a few weeks later, all class right there. Then the next year his brother Justin gets in to high school and man did he make me feel like I had no idea what I was doing out there. I won the first two close ones then he pulled away from me pretty good after that. At the time I thought it was just his style that gave me fits but really (as we saw the rest of his career) he was just that dang good. I also split with JD Pugh in freestyle but we never quite got the chance to wrestle a high school match
Who was your most influential coach?
If I really have to pick one here Johnny Partida was instrumental in getting me to just go out and find out what I could get done. He could really get inside my head. I wouldn’t have gotten accomplished what I did if he hadn’t dared me to go find out if I could win the big ones, however if Curt Diemer’s practices hadn’t prepared me the way they did I would have never been in that position to win them. Diemer’s whole practice/ season structure really helped me peak and his mat wrestling is a lot of what won my biggest matches. Of all my teammates that didn’t quite reach their goals, I can look back and say that if they had bought in to Diemer’s system and put everything they had in to it things would have turned out better for them. I also learned a lot of what would become my big moves by wrestling the off seasons with Brad Smith, specifically carries and high crotches.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
We finished 4th at the traditional state tournament all 3 years I wrestled there, my senior year with only 3 wrestlers. We lost some valuable points at the meat grinder of a district we had at Wilton that year but put all 3 qualifiers in the finals with 2 champs and a bunch of bonus points
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
You can’t put a price on how valuable it was to me to be able to go to an Iowa meet at Carver and see John Oostendorp competing. To see his name up on the big pixelated video board there, Nichols, IA as a hometown, it really dared you to go put in the work to see what kind of wrestler you could become. In the room as a freshman if you were my age you really wanted to grow up to be Robert Armey. That guy wasn’t just a hard worker, wasn’t just tough as nails, he made sure everyone felt like they were somebody just for being on his team. It made you want to work hard and wrestle hard because your goals were his goals too. A true leader above all the other good stuff and the model for what a call “The Invincible Senior” that I try to mold in the room when coaching high schoolers
Who were your favorite West Liberty wrestlers growing up?
Joel Moore was my neighbor when I was in middle school and the first wrestler I really knew, first time I went to a high school meet was to watch him. Seeing him on the podium was amazing to me and probably the first time I ever wondered if I might want to be a wrestler too. Once I started wrestling the next year my favorite high schoolers to watch were Rob Armey and Adam Ruess. I remember being in I think 8th grade seeing Ruess in the locker room with a big swollen knee one time still wrestling on it, and Partida pointing at it and saying “See that, it’s a long ways from his heart. You want to be a wrestler you can’t let something like that slow you down.”
How big of a rush was it to win state twice? Which one made you the happiest?
Winning the first one was the most amazing feeling I had ever had at the time. The thing was, I was studying the heck out of the IPTV finals broadcasts and any college wrestling I could record by then. I was self aware enough that I knew immediately that even though I won I wasn’t near as “good” as a lot of wrestlers out there and I knew I had a lot of work to do. After dropping down to chase a team title and finishing second, my 2nd title really didn’t feel the same. I was so relieved I had won but it didn’t feel near the same with the added pressure of not blowing it again.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Sam Marin, Bryce Esmoil, Joe Kelly, Coy Ruess, Will Esmoil
What tunes would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
I usually had my discman bumping Cypress Hill or Nine Inch Nails back then on wrestling days, or any days really.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
The state finals my junior year stung pretty bad, but also the Iowa Games that same year. After winning state and AAU folkstyle nationals the year before, I finished 2nd at sectionals, districts, state, I think Fort Madison, AAU nationals, then the Iowa Games. Basically every tournament I felt was important to me from February to July I actually wrestled well and beat some really good wrestlers but never got the job done in the finals. So that Iowa Games loss was insignificant at the time but it was the last time I was going to compete until the season so it burned a little more than it should have
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything about high school except dropping down my junior year and maybe running track in the spring. In college I should have either left the state to wrestle D1 or probably really just wrestled D3. The program at the time at UNI wasn’t a good fit for me and if I was going to commit to something like D1 I should have gotten farther away to really follow through with that commitment. In reality if you stack me up against other D1 guys of the era I probably would have been better suited to wrestle D3. I finished 9-8 the year I did wrestle in college but I needed to give it a lot more what I put in.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
The word “best” is so subjective so I would have to say biggest accomplishment would be winning the bracket I did my sophomore year for how little wrestling I had done at the point. I am probably most proud of my senior season, I swear I had a ranked kid every week or at least one that would place that same year. If you want to talk my best wrestling I ever did, I would say winning 4 matches at the Northern Open in Madison the year I wrestled in college. I had been to watch years before and did my best wrestling ever that day. As a coach we took 6 kids to AAU state one year and won the small club state title placing all 6 kids
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
It was nice wrestling in the era I did because we could still go to the small tournaments every week and get tough matches. I had my trilogy matches with Corey and Justin Stanley and also got a bunch of really tough matches from Matt Pasvogel and Mike Elliott, my big state rival was Zac Weiglein (sp), had tough matches in Des Moines from Greg Cruikshank and Jamie Taxted, I really got to test myself against a lot of studs. In college I got to wrestle David Morgan from Michigan State at the UNI Open, he had beat Jesse Whitmer that same week and I thought he would have beat me worse than he did. If I remember right he beat Whitmer every time they wrestled that year until the national tournament when it mattered and Whitmer got revenge and won the national title at that weight
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
As soon as the season ended I was in the room at City High at least until mid summer. I didn’t compete every weekend like some but my goal was to have another “season” worth of matches in the off season and always got at least that many. I also went down to Muscatine a lot of Sundays to practice too. I didn’t get on the mat much in the fall, but my last two years of high school I ran cross country part time while playing football. I was a big year round lifter and freshman football coach Tom Carter got me squatting hard. Sophomore football coach Rob Black turned me on to deadlifts and I can’t thank these two enough for how much their advice helped me develop.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think the elite guys of any era would be elite in any era. I do feel with the rise of the private clubs and advancements in training methods and such that there are more of the one step below elite guys now. So I think it’s harder to win multiple titles and such because the weight classes are deeper with talent, but Eric Juergens and Jeff McGinnis would still be Eric Juergens and Jeff McGinnis today
Did you wrestle after high school?
I accepted a scholarship to UNI and finished 9-8 in open tournaments. I wasn’t happy there and hit the rodeo rode immediately after. I had offers to transfer elsewhere but bullriding is an expensive endeavor to get started in and I found a decent job right away to pay for it
What other sports did you play?
In high school I played football all the way through and ran some cross country the last 2 years. After wrestling I rode bareback horses for a year then switched to bulls and did that 7 or 8 summers while coaching high school wrestling. A chance encounter got me training MMA in 2005 and I pursued that pretty hard for 3 years finishing 4-1 as a pro
What are your favorite sports teams?
I started going back to Des Moines to watch the West Liberty guys wrestle a few years back but that’s about all the sports I get in any more. I do like watching what Iowa and UNI’s wrestling programs are getting done this year but I don’t follow it super hard
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Currently? My only real hobbies are trying to be a good husband and raising two little boys to be gentlemen, but when I have time I enjoy mountain biking, Muay Thai, and recently got in to Obstacle Course Racing. I am in the early stages of planning a 5k OCR charity race for local veterans organization EnglishRiverOutfitters.org to be held near Washington in June of 2021 in memory of old friend and sparring partner Chuck Geertz
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Aside from the values a person gets from wrestling like work ethic, goal setting, confidence, fitness, self defense… wrestling is such a good “dry run” for the rest of your life. You learn how to deal with adversity, winning, losing, disappointment, politics, all kinds of things that are just practice for adult experiences you will have that will feel similar and you will already know how to handle yourself. It really gave me an identity and looking back I think of all the wonderful people that wrestling put in to my life and can’t help but think there was a greater purpose behind it
What do you do now?
I have been with General Mills for 22 years currently working in cereal process
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I have not been involved in wrestling the last 15 years or so but am in the early stages of forming a new youth wrestling club at my son’s school- Isaac Newton Christian Academy in Cedar Rapids. They want to eventually grow a high school program and this is the first step towards that. I feel this is part of my calling and I thank God for the opportunity to coach again
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Wrestling has the best rate of return of any sport out there. When I first started wrestling someone pointed out Gable’s success at Iowa at the time as the best example of what wrestling is all about. Gable put the best prepared team out there and they won almost everything. Not because they were always the best wrestlers on the mat, but because they invested the time and effort to be the best prepared wrestlers on the mat
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Maybe, just maybe an alumni meet if they ever do it again since I had to sit out the last one with a bad shoulder. Probably not an old timers tournament but it would be cool to wrestle a tournament that my sons are in one day
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I just have to say that coaching 10 seasons of youth and 5 seasons of high schoolers was some of the most fun and rewarding times of my life. I can’t thank the other coaches and the wrestlers enough for those years. Although I was a volunteer the entire time I do regret not being a better role model for the kids back then. I was a self serving punk kid only out to validate myself and my parents raised me better than that. I should have spent more time teaching life lessons and wrestling techniques instead of ‘90s gangsta rap and Sam Kinison
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I just got the tape back so I have to confirm this but I am fairly certain I gave up back points in all 4 matches on my way to a title my 10th grade year. Is that some sort of a record? It has to be. I also can lay claim to being the first wrestler to pick more state champions in the drive to Des Moines than Diemer did, and I think I am the only person I know that’s competed on TV in 3 different sports