To an outsider, it seemed likely that the verbal pledge from Kennard-Dale 170-pounder Chance Marsteller in July would end Penn State's chance to land FLO Wrestling's number-two ranked grappler in the weight class.
In Allen, Texas, however, the exact opposite thought populated Bo Nickal's mind. A two-time Lone Star state champ, he holds a 140-7 mark with one year left in his high school career and the option to attend any elite program he desired. He chose Penn State.
The senior-to-be saw Marsteller's commitment as a plus: where else would he be able to join a class that would give him such a great chance to win? After all, he's never been on a losing team, and has no plans to start once he hits the college ranks.
Thus, he gave his pledge to Lion head man Cael Sanderson – a decision he announced via social media last Wednesday - becoming the fourth member of Penn State's class of 2014. Joining FLO's number one and two ranked 170-pounders is Clovis High (Calif.) top-ranked 285-pounder Nick Nevills and Kittaning High (Pa.) 138-pounder Jason Nolf, who is ranked second in that weight class.
"Schools have been recruiting me since my sophomore or junior year, and it's been wearing on me a little bit," Nickal explained. "I knew Penn State was the place for me, so there was no sense in drawing it out.
"One of the reasons I chose Penn State was, when I went up there on my unofficial visit, I could tell how important wrestling was to the community, and that's important to me. Coming from Texas, it's not a really big deal [here], but there, random people not associated with the sport knew about it. I really, really liked it."
Nickal began wrestling freestyle at a young age while his family still lived in Wyoming, a necessity since no folkstyle wrestling was available in his community. An unusual path, he says it helped him become the wrestler he is today, and the reasons for that are endless.
For starters, he learned mat awareness. Unlike folkstyle, where rolling through is not just frequent but advised, he couldn't do it as much in freestyle, where any back exposure leads to points. He added that it helped his upper body strength for folkstyle wrestling, which he began around the age of 10.
So what helped Penn State gain his pledge? A May unofficial visit had as much to do with it as anything, and so did the appearance of a special guest, even though a coach was out of town.
Head assistant coach Casey Cunningham first contacted the wrestler a year ago, but away on a trip to the Virginia Duals, Nickal was chaperoned around the Lions Lorenzo Wrestling Complex by Sanderson and assistant head coach Cody Sanderson. Their company was enjoyed, Nickal said, but the arrival of 165-pound 2012 NCAA champion David Taylor stole the show.
The senior-to-be allowed Nickal to pick his brain throughout the day, a task the Texas product was eager to let commence. Noting that he's well aware of State's recent murderer's row from 165 pounds to 197 pounds, he added that the program's success at the weights he will wrestle added more fuel to his eventual commitment fire.
Speaking of weight, Nickal, who checks in at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, will let his body and the coaching staff's guidance take him to whatever weight they decide. He admitted that one day wrestling at 184-pounds in blue and white is not out of the question, though he's likely to start at 174 pounds.
"My biggest positive is that nobody knows what is coming. I have a lot of offense, and that's part of the reason I can give people trouble," Nickal said. "They don't know what I'm going to for, because I can throw, shoot low, turn, and ride on top. That's one of my biggest plusses."
A trip to the Iron Man tournament in Ohio is one of the biggest draws on his schedule this winter, but before that, the FILA Cadet World Championships will give him a final crack at freestyle gold before the interscholastic season kicks off. He already holds a Junior Freestyle National title, and Nickal added that he probably enjoys the style more thanks to its international flavor. Folkstyle, of course, is restricted mostly to the United States.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Michigan were all in consideration late for Nickal's services, and he said that informing those coaches of his intentions was a relief, it was also one of the most difficult things he's ever done.