May 16, 2013
Last winter, Nick Budd was among several Port Allegany wrestlers who made a trip to Erie to watch former Gator teammate Adam Greenman compete for Gannon University.
Next year, Budd will be joining him.
After a glittering high school career that included All-State honors in both football and wrestling, leaving him with several collegiate options in both sports, the PIAA 285-pound silver medalist has signed a National Letter of Intent with the Golden Knights to continue his career on the mat.
“Up until I placed (at states), I was very up in the air about it. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “And then after placing second, it kind of made up my mind for me as far as going to school and wanting to wrestle while I was there.”
Budd hit it off immediately with veteran Gannon head coach Don Henry on his visit.
“He’s an extremely nice guy, great personality, very friendly. Definitely one of the factors in wanting to go there,” he said. “I heard from several schools, had several different offers. But it came down to Gannon – it was close to home, and like I said, the coaching staff was really nice.”
After that initial meeting, Henry – a three-time NCAA Division II Super Regional One Coach of the Year with a strong history of mentoring All-Americans both on the mat and in the classroom – kept a close eye on the 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior, and was “really excited” when he decided to become a Golden Knight.
“I didn’t really know how good he was going to be this year, but I knew he was a big guy and we were going to be looking for a heavyweight. So he got on the radar there, and obviously when he did so well during the season and at states, that really sparked our interest,” he said.
“He’s going to come in with a chip on his shoulder because the last match that he wrestled in high school was a loss. That makes him a dangerous person; he’s got more to prove. A lot of the guys that we have are wrestlers of that same attitude: They come into college, they have something to prove. They didn’t accomplish everything they wanted to at the high school level. That’s what makes them better. They have more drive than the guys that had the higher accolades to start.”
Port Allegany head coach B.J. Greenman, Adam’s older brother, had already seen that intensity in Budd.
“He was actually the first kid I worked with when I got back from college in 2009, which was his freshman year. He was off with an injury from football and couldn’t wrestle at the beginning of the season, so we basically just lifted every day. I got to really know Nick and to see his work ethic,” Greenman said. “He wasn’t going to let his injury hold him back, and it didn’t. And it carried on throughout his career – he was in the weight room every single night the whole summer, going to wrestle every day. I think that’s what you need to be able to wrestle at the next level; he saw that at an early age, and it definitely paid off for him.
“He was back in the weight room the Monday after states. Coach Henry’s definitely lucky to be getting him.”
Nick, the son of Greg and Melynda Budd, began wrestling in the Junior Olympic program when he was nine, with his father helping to coach him ever since. A three-time Big 30 All-Star whose 100th victory came in his PIAA-qualifying third-place win at the Northwest Regional, he finished his career with a 103-22 record. Also a two-time All-State selection and Big 30 All-Star in football and the 2012 recipient of the Olean Times Herald ‘Unsung Lineman Award’ for the back-to-back District 9 champs, Budd plans to major in mechanical engineering, which may have worked in Gannon’s favor when he made his decision.
“He’s a bright kid. He wanted to go to school for engineering, and there really aren’t a lot of schools that have wrestling and engineering that you can concentrate on both unless he was going to go Ivy League or Division I,” Henry said. “I was more worried about him playing football than other schools taking him for wrestling.”
Henry – the only coach Gannon has known since he was hired to restart the Golden Knights’ wrestling program in 1984 – expects Budd to contribute right away.
“He should be the man. I recruited him to be the starter,” he said, noting that due to injuries at that weight class last season, “We had to go out and get a quality heavyweight that can make an immediate impact.”
One of Gannon’s most successful alumni, three-time All-American heavyweight Todd Proper, will be part of that process.
“Todd was there to meet Nick when he came for the visit, and said, ‘Hey, I want to make you our next outstanding heavyweight,’” Henry said. “And it was the truth – we want to get him to the point where he’s going to be an All-American, where he’s going to be challenging for a national championship eventually. He needs to have good workout partners; he needs to have big guys to work out with.
“We say that steel sharpens steel. We want him to be challenged. Todd Proper is about 320 right now, so if Nick can push him around, he’s not going to have too much trouble pushing someone around that’s 285.”
Coach Greenman, not that far removed from his own collegiate career, believes the future is bright for Budd.
“I think there’ll be that learning curve – it’s a huge change in style and intensity. So I think he might take some lumps his freshman year,” he said. “But his body frame is ideal for a heavyweight in college. He’s athletic. He’s stronger than anybody I’ve ever wrestled with in my life, even including our heavyweight in college. So I think once he gets used to the style of wrestling and the intensity, he’s limitless. I think he has the ability to be an All-American, and I really hope to be able to go to D-II nationals and watch him, and maybe even watch my brother wrestle at the same time.”
Gannon recently joined the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, where they compete against fellow Division II schools Mercyhurst, Kutztown, Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, and Millersville and also get to see the D-I programs at Bloomsburg, Edinboro, Clarion, and Lock Haven.
The PSAC has a long and proud history in the sport, typically placing schools in the Top 20 rankings in both divisions and sending multiple wrestlers to nationals. Ridgway’s Zach Zelcs was one of those qualifiers this season, placing eighth at the D-II finals to become Gannon’s 22nd All-American under Henry.
Budd is looking forward to becoming part of that tradition.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go wrestle at the next level. When I was little, wrestling J.O.’s, I always thought it would be a great experience. I’d see all the different names in college wrestling, and I always wanted to be one of those guys. So I’m really excited to go try it.”