NCAA Division III National Champion Speaks To Sidney Middle School Wrestlers
November 1, 2023 | View PDF
NCAA Division III National Champion and 2001 Dan Hodge Trophy winner Nick Ackerman spoke to Sidney Middle School wrestlers Oct. 19. He visited with them following practice in the Sidney High School wrestling room.
Ackerman is not a typical wrestler and not a typical champion. As a young child he was afflicted with spinal meningitis resulting in the amputation of both of his legs to save his life. It was only through hard work and perseverance that Ackerman reached the top of college wrestling.
He started his wrestling career in the third grade. "I got beat a lot. I had a lot of coaches that believed in me," Ackerman said. "My freshman year of college they didn't say this guy is going to win a national title and win the Hodge Trophy that year. Then go on to be this excellent, exceptional wrestler."
Ackerman finished his college senior year with a 38-4 record with 13 pins. In the 2001 NCAA Division III finals he defeated defending national champion Nick Slack for the 174-lb title. Ackerman broke Slacks 60 match undefeated winning streak. Also, that year, he won the Dan Hodge Trophy along with four time NCAA Division I champion Cael Sanderson. The Dan Hodge Trophy is collegiate wrestling's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
Ackerman stressed three important steps to take to become successful. These steps include surrounding yourself with exceptional people, believe in yourself and don't complain. "You can't beat a guy that doesn't quit," Ackerman stated.
Ackerman is a regular visitor to the Sidney area. In 2018, he spoke at the wrestling banquet. Ackerman makes yearly trips to the area to hunt with Sidney Middle School coach Shane Gorder and his family. This year, Ackerman was accompanied by his son, Grayer, 12, and friend Ryan Hadsall with his son Kyle, 12. Grayer and Kyle were each lucky enough to harvest 4x4 bucks during the Montana deer youth hunt Oct. 19-20.