Troy Nickerson tied the knot with the lady in his life on August 23 of 2014, but that’s not the only marriage he entered into during the month. Troy was recently appointed Head Coach of The University of Northern Colorado’s wrestling program. With the help of his right-hand man and Colorado native, Joe LeBlanc, Northern Colorado is looking to take its program to the next level. Troy and Joe have both overcome great adversities, and they both welcome the challenge to grow wrestling and build a winning program in their respective region.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Troy and Joe over the past few weeks in an effort to gain deep insight into what truly sets them apart from other people, and why many people in the wrestling community feel their program is going to be successful.
TDG: There is an old saying, "Behind every strong man is a stronger woman." Tell us about the impact that your wives have made on you in relation to the momentum that is a byproduct of motivation at its deepest level.
Troy: She has been an absolute rock star. She has been taking care of everything, and everything is falling into place right now. I am looking forward to starting our life out here in Colorado. Just knowing that she’s always got my back and having that support every single day is amazing. She understands how wrestling is going to shape our future together.
Joe: My wife has been there through everything; wrestling, competing, training for the Olympic Trials; following me around the country from Indiana to Providence and back. She is a very special girl to be able to keep up with this lifestyle.
TDG: What can you say about community support in cultivating the bond between a university program and the community in which it resides?
Troy: We have an Athletic Director that is very passionate about what we are doing, and he has done his homework. Both of our visions match up perfectly. Colorado is a great wrestling state. I think it is only continuing to get better, especially in the next five to ten years. For me, it is all about getting the right people involved; bringing Joe back was obviously a huge part of that. We want to really build something strong and make an impact in the Colorado wrestling community.
Joe: Growing up here, I have a pretty good feel for what is going on here in Colorado. I’m not gonna lie. This is all surreal to me right now; being back in my home state with this opportunity, with a guy like Troy Nickerson. I have had a lot of people reaching out to me already. We are reaching out to everybody, and we are trying to gain more respect and support from the community.
TDG: How are you leveraging the relationship that you and your program have been solidifying with USA Wrestling, specifically the Olympic Training Center?
Troy: We have a very good niche here in being the closest public NCAA Division 1 school with wrestling to the Olympic training center. Our number one way to leverage our relationship is to develop our regional training center in an effort to get the best senior-level athletes here.
Joe: We are the closest state-funded educational institution to the Olympic Training Center. I know Coach Slay very well. He’s a great guy. We want to collaborate with Coach Slay and all of the USA Wrestling staff and foster that relationship. We want our recruits to take a visit to the OTC when they come out for a visit. It is like a wrestling goldmine out here in Colorado. It also presents us with an opportunity to help grow USA Wrestling and wrestling as a whole.
TDG: Tell us about your recruiting efforts.
Troy: Right now we are not a fully-funded program, but we are growing into that. Our immediate goal is keeping the best kids in Colorado. We have a strong presence here in the west, but really we are looking for the best kids in the country. We are looking, in general, for the total student-athlete.
Joe: It is important out here to get the western kids because of interstate tuition sharing programs that are in place. We’re gonna try and retain all of the in-state kids. Historically Colorado’s best have left the state. Colorado has also had trouble getting the top recruits. We are looking to change that.
I hope the above dialogue provides some insight into the things that Troy and Joe have brewing at The University of Northern Colorado. Let’s take a step back and really think about what we have here. Let’s look at these two individuals’ achievements. Combined, these two men have eight individual state championship titles. Both of these men were 4x NCAA Division I All-Americans. Troy was a FIVE time Fargo champion. How could the wrestling community not be excited for what will happen with this program? I think it is important for all wrestling fans in the United States to support the growth of this program. It is the only [public school] Division I program in Colorado, but it also resides near the heart and soul of United States Olympic Wrestling. What is even crazier is that The University of Northern Colorado is one of only three college wrestling programs in the United States that has a 4x NCAA Division 1 All-American Head Coach and Head Assistant Coach.
The University of Northern Colorado’s current state presents a perfect storm of opportunities. I am excited to see what this Northern Colorado team will do this season. Please support the University of Northern Colorado program. It’s a bear market out there, and The University of Northern Colorado Wrestling Program needs your support!
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