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Nicola named to head wrestling post

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 7, 2016 in Wrestling

SEWARD, Neb. – Most recently assistant wrestling coach at NCAA Division II California Baptist University, Andrew Nicola has been named head wrestling coach at Concordia University, as announced by the athletic department on Friday (Oct. 7). Nicola becomes the third head coach since the program’s rebirth in 2009. He takes over a team coming off back-to-back Great Plains Athletic Conference titles.

Nicola fills the role vacated by Dana Vote, who left Concordia to become the director of wrestling operations at Iowa State University following four seasons with the Bulldogs.

“It is an honor beyond measure to be the head coach at Concordia University,” Nicola said. “Concordia is an opportunity for me to use my God-given talents and passion for wrestling to lead this program. It is my duty to serve these young men in every capacity to help them achieve their goals socially, academically and athletically. I was drawn to the family atmosphere of the school and of the community and to the school's investment in athletics. My vision for Concordia wrestling is for it to continue be a nationally recognized and respected program both on and off of the mats.”

Nicola, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., has coached as an assistant in the collegiate ranks since 2009. As a two-year member of head coach Lennie Zalesky’s staff at California Baptist, Nicola helped the Lancers reach heights that had been unprecedented for the program. The 2015-16 Cal Baptist squad won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship and then placed second in its region and sixth at the NCAA Division II National Championships, where four Lancers earned All-America awards. Heavyweight Joe Fagiano took home the program’s first ever NCAA title. In addition, CBU finished in the top 10 nationally in terms of grade point average during both of Nicola’s seasons spent in Riverside, Calif.

Prior to landing at CBU, Nicola made coaching stops at NAIA Cumberland University (Tenn.) and NCAA Division II University of Central Missouri. Additionally, he served two different Indiana high schools, Bloomington South and Culver Academies.

Cumberland also made big waves during Nicola’s two seasons as an assistant. The 2013-14 Bulldogs recorded the program’s highest-ever finishes at the NAIA National Championships (sixth), National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals (third) and NWCA Academic All-American Team standings (fourth). Six Cumberland wrestlers found their way to the All-America stand at the 2014 national championships. One won a national title and another finished runner up.

Nicola has also coached on the international scene. He holds a USA Wrestling Silver Certification. He’s served on the Indiana National Team coaching staff for more than a decade. In 2013, Nicola traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for the World Championships while working as a Team USA Senior World Team Coaching Ambassador. He garnered 2012 Indiana Cadet/Junior Coach of the Year honors.

The Hoosier State native graduated from Indiana University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He went on to complete a master’s degree in athletic and sport business administration in 2012 from Central Missouri. He also earned a master’s degree in education from Cumberland.

This past season, the Concordia wrestling program captured GPAC dual and postseason championships and placed eighth at the NAIA National Championships on the strength of its first-ever individual national champion. Levi Calhoun remains the assistant wrestling coach for the Bulldogs.

Statement from Devin Smith, Concordia University Director of Athletics

We’re blessed to welcome Andrew Nicola to the Bulldog Nation as our new Head Wrestling Coach. Andrew has spent his coaching career preparing for this moment. We have no doubt that he will continue the momentum that has been built within our wrestling program by his predecessor, Coach Dana Vote. Andrew brings strong Christian character and instant credibility into the room as a technician and as a strong recruiter with many connections throughout the country. He’s been part of championship programs and we’re excited about the winning pedigree he brings to Concordia. Andrew’s passion for the sport and for life are clearly evident. We are looking forward to seeing what heights our wrestling program will reach with Andrew leading the way.

Statement from Lennie Zalesky, California Baptist University Head Wrestling Coach
Andrew has been a big help in growing our wrestling program here at CBU. He relates well to the student-athletes and excels in recruiting. He will be missed here, but the job offered to Andrew is an incredible opportunity for him. I believe he will do a fantastic job there at Concordia.

More from Coach Nicola
I want anyone and everyone who hears about our boys to associate them with respect, hard work, discipline and loyalty. That's a recipe for success in all facets of our lives. There's such a solid group returning and coming in that our goal should not be short of a top five finish in the classroom, at nationals and at the national duals this season. We will continue to build off of the success that Coach Vote had and we will set our sights on earning a NAIA National Championship. 

I have had such an advantage of learning so much from previous coaches that I've worked with. My biggest college coaching influences have been Leroy Vega (who is the reason I am where I am today in the coaching world), Lennie Zalesky and Arsen Aleksanyan. Without their guidance and patience with me, I don't believe that I would be in the position that I am. I am blessed knowing the three of them are only a phone call away when I have questions. There is a lot of coaching experience between the three of them.