Friday, January 13, 2023

Wolfpack wrestling coach Nicholas earns 200th career win

By Matt Pascarella

Windham/Westbrook/Gray New-Gloucester Wolfpack wrestling coach John Nicholas has been coaching wrestling for 25 years and earned his 200th varsity career win last month when the Wolfpack defeated York, 45-24.

The Windham/Westbrook/Gray New Gloucester Wolfpack
Wrestling team gathers with John Jon Nicholas after he 
earned his 200th career victory following a meet at York
High School on Dec. 13.
Nicholas began coaching at Windham in 2018 and the 200 wins span more than 17 years of Nicholas serving as a head coach.

Now a physical education teacher at Wentworth School in Scarborough, Nicholas wrestled at Westbrook High School under Hall of Fame coach Dennis Walch.

After high school, he followed in Walch’s footsteps and was able to coach alongside him for a couple years. Nicholas then got a job coaching at Portland High School.

“I was taught to work hard, pay attention to detail, and try your best,” said Nicholas. “I have been blessed to have great parents, coaches, and teachers, assistant coaches and tough wrestlers who are willing to learn at all three schools.”

On the day of the York match, Nicholas said that he was more focused on preparing the team to face York, as they are a tough team, but the 200th win was in the back of his head.

Windham senior Scott Ingalls is a Wolfpack team captain and has wrestled under Nicholas for four years. In the huddle before the match, Ingalls said Nicholas told the team that while they are wrestling for themselves on the mat, this was a big one. He said it felt good to get the win.

“His care and devotion to the program sets him apart from other coaches,” said Ingalls. “He’s taught me a lot, this is my second year being a captain, he’s helped me develop my own leadership skills and put forth to the program what I can offer through him teaching me.”

On the day of the 200th win, Nicholas said he felt relieved after the Wolfpack beat York. He describes himself as a humble person and it was good to have the team excited after he reached that milestone.

Being able to coach beside Dennis Walch taught Nicholas a lot about being a successful wrestler and coach, with lessons like time management, preparedness and working hard to accomplish your goals. Walch helped Nicholas become a better person and Nicholas now passes on those habits to his wrestlers.

“I always wanted to coach at my alma mater, and I was able to do that for a long time and now continue to,” said Nicholas. “I wanted to create a positive environment where kids enjoy wrestling and want to work hard to achieve their goals.”

He likes where his career has taken him. His teams have brought success into their system by showing up every day, working hard, learning, improving, wrestling tough and having fun.

Wolfpack assistant varsity coach Nick Buckley has coached next to Nicholas for three years. Buckley said Nicholas is a great mentor, has a lot of knowledge – knows what works and what doesn’t work, is consistent with his message, always wants to win and is always looking for that edge.

“When he came [to Windham] he changed the culture,” said Buckley. “It was almost a recreational team ... but when he came [to Windham] now we’re here to wrestle and get better. Getting better is an expectation and winning is a byproduct of that. He made a tougher practice schedule and held people accountable. When you do that teams get better.”

“It is nice to be acknowledged for 200 wins,” said Nicholas. “I hope what it says about me is that I have continued to produce teams that are tough, have good sportsmanship, and keep improving.

He said that he plans to continue coaching the Wolfpack and producing tough competitive teams that keep striving for a state title. <

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