Martin & Nickal; a recent rivalry to remember

Updated: March 21, 2019

Photo: Left, Myles Martin of Ohio State did not pin Penn State’s Bo Nickal in the 2016 NCAA final at 174 pounds, but did secure an upset victory. Right, Nickal avenged that moment when he rolled off his back and pinned the Buckeye in the 184-pound NCAA championship last March in Cleveland.

By Mike Finn

For the first time in four years, Penn State’s Bo Nickal and Ohio State’s Myles Martin do not have a chance to meet each other in the NCAA Division I Championships after the Nittany Lion moved up to 197 pounds.

The two seniors certainly have created plenty of memories for fans and themselves in the past three years, especially in the finals in 2016 and ’18 when each competitor scored an impressive and unforgettable victory.

Three years ago, when each man was a freshman and was wrestling at 174 pounds, the Buckeye was seeded 10thbut stunned the top-ranked Nittany Lion, 11-9, for the championship.

Myles Martin

One year later, the two both moved up to 184 pounds, but did not meet at the national tournament where Nickal edged defending champion Gabe Dean of Cornell, 4-3, while Martin settled for fifth place after losing in the second round.

But their biggest moment together came last March when Nickal rallied — with the use of an “elevator” move to fight off a takedown — and pinned Martin in 2:30 of their 184-pound championship bout. The victory also clinched team title for Penn State over second-place Ohio State.

Less than a year later, the two “rivals” found themselves sitting before a group of reporters with two other wrestlers in between them.

Bo Nickal

As they end their careers as the No. 1 seeds at 184 (Martin) and 197 pounds (Nickal) leave your career, will they ever think about those moments? Do you look at each other differently? Do you take it personal?

“I think that when you get to wrestle a great competitor, it’s just exciting,” said Nickal (25-0). “That’s the matches that I get most excited for, when I’m wrestling good competition and stuff. I’m just appreciative of that.

“Being able to wrestle the best wrestlers in the world is something that excites me. That’s the reason I do it because it’s fun.

 And it’s one thing to just go out and throw a guy down and pin him but that’s not really as satisfying as wrestling somebody that’s a good competitor and that’s more fun to me. I think that’s something that I’ll appreciate.


Martin agreed that it’s important to enjoy the present and not worry about the past.

“I think I just appreciate wrestling really good guys,” said Martin (20-0). “It’s always exciting for the fans as well for (the media) and for people who really have a lot of respect for this sport.

“I don’t look at (losing in the final) like a negative situation because it’s wrestling and I like to keep it simple. It’s not like life-changing stuff.

 It’s just fun and exciting.