Nico Megaludis returns to the mat for Penn State on Friday night against Lock Haven after a year on redshirt. It's been too long. He's already a 3-time All-American, having never placed lower than 3rd at nationals. His 87 wins (vs 16 losses) puts him 38th in career victories - and, by the end of this year, when he gets his hand raised on Saturday night at NCAAs, in his last match in blue-and-white, he'll have climbed into the top 15 all-time. Oh by the way? He's even better off the mat, excelling in the classroom, and on the twitter machine. Give him a follow @babyflo_Nico.
Nico's as tough as they come on the resilite. He's a grinder. He prefers to go ear-to-ear with you, and work his collar ties. Most of his neutral offense comes by mauling you physically, and dominating the tie. Here's a quick example of that.
The whistle blows, the match starts, and Nico's opponent, Northwestern's 13th-ranked Dom Malone (Wyoming Seminary) makes the mistake of trying to muscle Nico. Malone's almost immediately in reverse, off balance, and tries a half-hearted shot to forestall Nico's pressure. That was his second mistake. Nico sprawls - dropping his hips to the mat. He buries Malone's head in the mat, controls Malone's left arm, and circles behind him for the quick takedown.
That's physical domination. It doesn't always look like that, though.
Below is an example of domination, but in a more subtle form. His opponent's (Nicky Roberts') right arm is on the back of Nico's neck, a "collar tie". Nico controls his opponent's right arm by gripping above the elbow. His target is his opponent's left (trail) foot.
Nico squeezes the arm, and "changes level" - dropping to his left knee - while pulling the arm down and away, towards his own right hand, which is now on the mat. That accomplishes two things: 1) Nico's cleared Roberts' "head and hands" defense; and 2) he's unbalanced Roberts, getting Roberts moving forward and to the left - exactly where Nico wants him to go, since he's attacking Roberts' left leg.
Then, in a flash, he drives forward off of his left leg, through Roberts' left leg. Roberts is off balance, defense compromised, and Nico finishes the takedown crisply. Two-takedown, Megaludis.
It doesn't get any prettier than that. Here's the move again, from a different angle, this time against Iowa's Thomas Gilman, at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
Like all great wrestlers, Nico has more than one attack. You need more than one go-to move, preferably one to the opposite side, as it means you're balanced, which keeps your opponent honest. Here's an ankle pick off the ear-to-ear collar tie, to the opposite foot (opponent's right).
Nico's locked up at the edge of the mat, with a right underhook. He takes a step back, pulling Roberts with him. Roberts, naturally, steps forward to keep his balance. And as soon as Roberts' right foot comes forward - boom. Nico's changed levels, snatched the foot, and switched to a double leg, since his underhook arm was free. Roberts is up a creek.
Once Nico's taken you down, the mauling intensifies. As BSD Wrestling Teammate SuccssWithHonorAlways pointed out earlier this week - in a must-read, meet the team preview - Nico's most underrated weapon is his tight waist.
The "tight waist" is just what it sounds like - your arm, squeezing the breath out of your opponent, by squeezing on your opponents waist, tightly. Really tightly, in Nico's case. From that tight waist, after he's drained your XBox life-meter down to 5% or so, he'll control one of your wrists with the hand that's doing the squeezing. He'll pressure forward to loosen you up, and get back points from the two-on-one tilt (two of his arms, controlling one of yours), as shown in the gif below - which, as also shown in the gif below, he's comfortable taking to either side.
Once he's satisfied with that - or, if he feels like dishing out a bit more pain - he'll start running an arm bar. Rather than using his tight waist hand to grip your wrist, he'll instead take that left arm of yours, put his left arm above your elbow, and lift. Your arm goes back, and up. Of course, given human anatomy, your arm can only go so high in reverse. That creates what math people call "leverage". As Nico's bending your arm in the wrong direction, he's also walking towards your head. He'll block your head with his knee - and now you can't squirm away from the direction he's bending your arm. Sounds painful, right? It is. And consequently, you flip over to your back.
As mentioned at the top - we can't wait to see Nico back on the mat wearing that blue and white singlet. Friday night can't get here fast enough.